A glance at the White House website reveals the degree to which the U.S. administration is misrepresenting global warming. Under the headline“A Plan to Fight Climate Change,” we are told “We have a moral obligation to lead the fight against carbon pollution.”
President Barack Obama’s is also obliged to inform the American public about the actual state of this poorly-understood field. The last thing he should be doing is using the misleading language of Greenpeace and David Suzuki.
Yet that is what the administration did concerning the new greenhouse gas emission reduction agreement with China.
A White House article co-authored by John Podesta, counsellor to the president, and Dr. John Holdren, Obama’s science adviser repeatedly uses the term “carbon pollution,” as does Obama in his climate change action plan.
But “carbon pollution” is doublespeak. What the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.” By “carbon pollution,” Obama really means carbon dioxide (CO2), an invisible, odorless gas on which all life depends.
Grade school students know CO2 is not pollution; it is aerial fertilizer.
That’s why commercial greenhouse operators routinely run their internal atmospheres at up to 1,500 parts per million CO2 concentration, a consequence of which is that plants inside grow far more efficiently than at the 400 ppm in the outside atmosphere.
Biological Impacts, a report from the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change that cites over 1,000 peer-reviewed studies, documents rising productivity of forests and grasslands as CO2 levels have increased, not just in recent decades, but in past centuries.
Increasing CO2 levels pose no direct hazard to human health. CO2 concentrations in submarines can reach levels well above 10,000 ppm, 25 times current atmospheric levels, with no harmful effects on the crew.
Podesta helped guide environmental policies under President Bill Clinton, and Holdren holds advanced degrees in engineering and physics, so it is difficult to believe they do not appreciate CO2’s true nature. It appears they are calling the gas “carbon pollution” to sway the public into thinking of CO2 as something dirty, like graphite or soot, solid substances that really are carbon.
It should be called what it is – carbon dioxide emissions, CO2 tax, CO2 treaty, etc., to help people remember that, independent of its impact on climate, CO2 is an invisible gas essential to plant photosynthesis.
They should also explain to the public that we are actually near the lowest level of CO2 in Earth’s history. During a multi-million-year period about 440 million years ago, CO2 was about 1,400 per cent of today’s level, while Earth was stuck in the coldest period of the last half-billion years. At other times, it was hot when CO2 levels were high. At still other times, it was neither unusually hot nor cold.
The geologic record indicates temperatures are not driven by CO2. Not surprisingly, there is no hint of any CO2-induced warming in greenhouses either.
Besides the waste of billions of dollars and the loss of thousands of jobs, there is another tragedy unfolding. As a result of the unjustified confidence that we know the future of climate and, even more outrageously, that humanity can control it, relatively little money is available to help the poor adapt to climate change today.
Of the roughly $1 billion spent every day across the world on climate finance, only six per cent is devoted to helping vulnerable societies adapt to climate change. The rest is dedicated to trying to stop climatic events that may someday happen.
Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition.