Guest essay by Ronald D. Voisin
High Atmospheric CO2 is Good for All Life on Earth
At an atmospheric concentration of 380ppm and higher the limited long-wave spectral absorption of CO2 is essentially saturated. Consequently, yet more atmospheric CO2 becomes vanishingly less relevant to a greenhouse effect (if at all). And when more atmospheric water vapor is objectively evaluated its net-effect is found to be a negative-feedback rather than a positive one (in direct contradiction to the presumption of the Models). However, enhanced atmospheric CO2 clearly stimulates the proliferation of all forms of life. You might best call it Vitamin C…(O2).
Some believe that the reason our immediate celestial neighbors (Venus and Mars) don’t have life is that they have high concentrations of atmospheric CO2. But the reality is entirely upside-down from this notion. The primary reason our neighbors have high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 is simply that they have no life. Earth started the very same way (with high atmospheric CO2). But life evolved here. We humans and all other life here on Earth are part of Earth’s naturally sequestered CO2. The “non-life” CO2 that we humans “un-sequester” with fossil fuel consumption, is CO2 beneficially returned to the immediate opportunity to become life once again. Life on Earth is exploding just now but we humans seem to want to deny it. However, it is true. And our CO2 release is one for the things we are favorably contributing to this highly desirable process. These are exceptionally good times for life on Earth.
CO2 + H2O + photons = CH2O + O2
carbon dioxide + water + light energy = carbohydrate + oxygen
Here is an important fact: CO2 is a fundamental building block required by all life. Its availability, in large part, regulates the maximum level at which any and all life can proliferate. All life on Earth is booming just now and it could not do so without elevated atmospheric CO2. Photosynthetic processes require three primary ingredients: sunlight, water and CO2. We have known for a very long time that the abundance of sunlight and water are critical to the growth of vegetation. But now, not so surprisingly, we have discovered that the abundance of CO2 is critical also. Vegetation on Earth is exploding just now due to elevated levels of atmospheric CO2. This is supported by innumerable agricultural studies of CO2 effects while commercial greenhouses intentionally spike their internal CO2 (internal CO2 spiking is well known by greenhouse managers to stimulate growth and therefore improve profits – here in “progressive” California, our burgeoning greenhouse marijuana entrepreneurs spike the internal Vitamin C(O2) to well over 1000ppm to speed growth and enhance yields).
And then there is the food chain: omnivores feed on carnivores that feed on herbivores that feed on vegetation (both terrestrially and in the oceans). There is only one organism on Earth today that is limiting its prolific celebration of the currently enhanced atmospheric CO2 levels. And it’s the only organism intelligent enough to be entirely confused. There is no replacement that we might beneficially “migrate to” for this functionality. CO2 is required for this life-benefit regardless of that we might think to imagine or otherwise pass into law. This inevitable cycle will continue. And no matter how diligently some might confusedly think it should be arrested, we cannot arrest it. It should not be arrested. And it will continue to climb (naturally) so long as the Earth continues to warm (and likely for some time thereafter owing to the thermal delay of the oceans). Elevated CO2 is factually stimulating the proliferation of all life on Earth (including, of course, polar bears).
So if, as is so commonly assumed, the current spike in atmospheric CO2 is substantially or entirely anthropogenic, one then needs to ask what has inhibited the natural spiking that would normally accompany this 150 year long warming trend (actually 400 years of warming since the coldest depths of the Little Ice Age) such that our anthropogenic release could act as the sole (or primary) source of the current spike? A partial answer to this important question may be largely or at least substantially explained in my prior posting. i.e. We have inhibited insect and microbial emission and substituted a smaller quantity of our own. Then, is the current spike anthropogenic? Certainly it is not. The current atmospheric CO2 spike would be similar, most likely larger, if we were never here.
But a primary difference remains in that our emission is largely of long-time sequestered CO2 while insect/microbial emission is largely not. Regarding this difference it must be recognized that the notion of a steady-state 1:1 pairing of natural CO2 sources and sinks is wholly unjustified when natural release events regularly produce huge and large-scale, long-duration disruptions. And if 1:1 pairing of natural sources and sinks did exist, why do we observe the habitual interglacial CO2 spiking and glacial CO2 dips (is this not simple proof that they are not 1:1 paired)? The CO2 that we humans emit has the most life-generating-value of all CO2 to be emitted, for the very same reason that it is erroneously “perceived” to be the most detrimental. i.e. The “long time” sequestered CO2 that we emit is, in fact, an incremental amount that becomes available to stimulate an additional abundance of life on Earth just because it was “long-time” sequestered (and the same is true for most all naturally released carbon which is mostly “long-time” sequestered itself).
It is extraordinarily difficult to imagine that the natural sources, described in a prior posting, are not at play during this current period of warming. They most likely are the primary cause of the currently observed CO2 spike. However, much conventional thinking posits that this current spike is entirely anthropogenic. And even further, that human emission is so extreme that Mother Nature can only choke down half of it while the other half accumulates in the atmosphere to produce the observed spike. This notion is a monumentally incredible “leap of dis-faith and misunderstanding”.
Erroneous 12C/13C/14C ratio analysis is said to confirm this notion but this single study very much lacks reasonable scrutiny and more recent studies dispute it entirely. Erroneously long atmospheric CO2 residence time is required to support this notion but many recent studies all show a very short residence time. Erroneous 1:1 delicately balanced pairing of natural CO2 sources and sinks is required to support this notion when the Earth regularly absorbs huge natural disruptions and current studies show an enormous Earthly ability to rapidly sink and source additional or incremental CO2. Wholesale disregard of all prior interglacial CO2 spiking is required while it is obvious that our estimates can only be lower than reality. Disregard of the warming stimulation of all natural CO2 sources is required. Circular thinking of the “missing heat” accumulating in the oceans is required. Dismissal of the fact that additional oceanic heat would necessarily stimulate enormous scale oceanic out-gassing of CO2 is required. Thousands of pre-industrial measurements of atmospheric CO2, measured to be substantially higher than today, have to be disregarded. Enormous evidence of recent climate variation, far greater than any observed in the last 100 years, has to be disregarded. The implications of seasonal atmospheric CO2 variation, being several multiples of anthropogenic release, have to be ignored. Satellite maps showing little to no spatial correlation of elevated atmospheric CO2 to centers of industry have to be disregarded. Belief that the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period, each lasting several hundreds of years, were nonetheless small-scale regional phenomena is required. The fact that atmospheric CO2 spiking might reasonably be more than now observed, if we were never here, has to be ignored. And finally, the obvious life-stimulating benefits of enhanced atmospheric CO2, have to be disregarded to the point of being assailed.
Individually each of these notions is a significant oversight. Collectively they make a compelling case for additional scrutiny. Can it really be rationally argued that all these natural sources are not being stimulated by the current warming; that these enormous natural sources are all in quiescent stasis? Or that there is some predetermined, delicately balanced 1:1 pairing with identically stimulated sinks (why then did CO2 ever spike or dip in prior climate transitions?). And that our growing tiny contribution has taken control of a much larger growing flux whose variability dwarfs what we know to be our small fractional contribution?
For all the legitimate argumentation regarding an enormously exaggerated role for CO2 in forcing climate change, little attention is being paid to the so easily argued and overwhelming likelihood that we are contributing a vanishingly tiny (and fundamentally beneficial) percentage of the observed naturally occurring atmospheric CO2 variation – a contribution that would most likely be larger if we were never here.
Here in Figure 1 is a simplistic yet accurate and useful “big-picture” de-convolution of the observed temperature variations over the last million+ years. During this most recent interglacial, the only time that literate humans have existed, there is a stunning correlation of enhanced human prosperity, and very presumably of all life, to low-amplitude, warm, high CO2 periods. CO2 is rightfully shown to be, at best, a bit-player in a bit-player regime as regard to influencing climate.
Truly draconian measures to our fundamental means of wealth generation (use of energy) could, say, diminish this tiny contribution by half – from 2% to, say, 1%. But then aren’t we still left with the vast majority (99%) of the current natural trend? It is not only so that the currently observed spike in atmospheric CO2 has little to do with future climate change; but our opportunity to meaningfully affect its future course is simply non-existent; and there is a great deal of evidence that all life on Earth is prolifically celebrating the conditions that we are confusedly committing ourselves to stop. You might best call it Vitamin C…(O2). Meanwhile, it is profoundly so that energy use is identically equal to human accomplishment and prosperity. Nikolai Kardashev and Freeman Dyson found it most useful and logical to classify potential intelligent alien life based on their level of mastery of energy. At the highest and most salient levels, CO2 as a prime driver of climate not only fails, but it fails miserably and, quite frankly, inexcusably for so long.
1. Climate science is very complicated and very far from being settled.
2. Earth’s climate is overwhelmingly dominated by negative-feedbacks that are currently poorly represented in our Modeling efforts and not sufficiently part of ongoing investigations.
3. Climate warming drives atmospheric CO2 upward as it stimulates all natural sources of CO2 emission. Climate cooling drives atmospheric CO2 downward.
4. Massive yet delayed thermal modulations to the dissolved CO2 content of the oceans is what ultimately drives and dominates the modulations to atmospheric CO2.
5. The current spike in atmospheric CO2 is largely natural (~98%). i.e. Of the 100ppm increase we have seen recently (going from 280 to 380ppm), the move from 280 to 378ppm is natural while the last bit from 378 to 380ppm is rightfully anthropogenic.
6. The current spike in atmospheric CO2 would most likely be larger than now observed if human beings had never evolved. The additional CO2 contribution from insects and microbes (and mammalia for that matter) would most likely have produced a greater current spike in atmospheric CO2.
7. Atmospheric CO2 has a tertiary to non-existent impact on the instigation and amplification of climate change. CO2 is not pivotal. Modulations to atmospheric CO2 are the effect of climate change and not the cause.
8. Elevated atmospheric CO2 is best recognized as elevated Vitamin C…(O2) in that it stimulates all life on Earth to the great benefit of all life on Earth.
9. Human use of fossil fuels beneficially returns sequestered carbon to the life-cycle of the planet.
10. Increased energy consumption is identically equal to increased human prosperity. However, warm climate periods with relatively high atmospheric CO2 are also historically required to enable human prosperity.
11. The Sun clearly imprints several high-frequency but low-amplitude signatures on climate (ones that dwarf any signature that might be attributable to an atmospheric CO2 effect as this effect is, so far, immeasurable).
12. We do not yet know the drivers of major low-frequency but high-amplitude climate change. However, these powerful drivers overwrite all other consideration including, for example, solar induced stable latching states.
Dr. Murry Salby’s recent analysis of the Mauna Loa CO2 record has confirmed that the current spike in atmospheric CO2 is largely, if not essentially entirely natural. His work also confirms CO2’s minimalist, if not non-existent, climatic effect. Meanwhile, solar scientists are making great progress at explaining the natural causes of high-frequency but low-amplitude climate variation during this most recent and current interglacial.
However, when it comes to low-frequency but high-amplitude climate change, there is a dearth of acceptable scientific explanation. Many are trying to extend the high-frequency but low-amplitude effects of solar and cosmic ray influences into this low-frequency but high-amplitude domain – but with limited to marginal success, at least so far. And CO2 is rightfully no longer in the running for such a possible explanation. We now debate exactly how minimalist CO2’s influence so obviously is and whether or not its influence can actually be detected. Meanwhile solar drivers are easily validated with their substantial influence (at least solar drivers are substantially influential during an interglacial but not likely the prime-driver for major transitional events).
Yet it appears manifest that these major climate swings are caused by an overriding and truly “pivotal” driver – one whose influence handily overrides the substantial albedo modulations of solar and cosmic ray influences. I submit that there must be another yet far more consequential driver whose investigation warrants exceptional attention and investigation.
In a future posting I hope to share a hypothesis of low-frequency but high-amplitude major climate change. The hypothesis may be correct or not. However, as good science is practiced, I will make quantified predictions that will, if untrue, invalidate the hypothesis.
About the Author
Ronald D Voisin is a retired engineer. He spent 27 years in the Semiconductor Lithography Equipment industry mostly in California’s Silicon Valley. Since retiring, he has made a hobby of studying climate change for the last 7 years. Ron received a BSEE degree from the Univ. of Michigan – Ann Arbor in 1978 and has held various management positions at both established equipment companies and start-ups he helped initiate. Ron has authored/co-authored 55 patent applications, 24 of which have issued.