What is CO2?


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant.  It is a plant nutrient.  It is 27% carbon and 73% oxygen.  It is a crucial ingredient for all plant, tree and food crop growth and thereby yields, by the natural process of photosynthesis, most of the oxygen which humans and creatures need to breathe to live.  At only four one-hundredths of one percent (0.04%) of Earth's atmosphere or 400 parts per million, CO2 is in very short supply.


March 21st, 2014

W.P. Krebs



The Carbon Dioxide Crisis: Confronting Misleading Theories by W. P. Krebs

The concerns being raised about the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere are mistakenly diverting attention from serious environmental problems. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is blamed for global warming, leading to a major climate change with a catastrophic rise in ocean levels. But if the planet warms enough to melt all polar ice, warmer ocean surface waters will have increased evaporation rates. Air moisture will rise and ocean levels will fall, canceling out the effect of the added water. (Factors such as land subsidence, soil erosion, sedimentation and ocean waste dumping, do affect ocean levels but are not easily measured and not considered here.) CO2 is also blamed for increasing the acidity of oceans. It is being attacked as a pollutant. It is falsely charged on all counts.

If warming by humans is occurring, why is there no mention of manmade (anthropogenic) heat?    If ocean acidity is increasing, why is there no mention of the many acids entering waterways worldwide or of the acids evolving from the microbial action occurring within polluted waterways?    And if CO2 is a pollutant, why is it the only constituent of Earth's atmosphere capable of recycling oxygen?   Something is wrong.   All of the above is discussed herein with a warning against any "cap and trade" regulations or any tax on CO2 emissions, both embodying large societal penalties and neither providing environmental benefits.   Recommendations are made for a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto Accord with emphasis on protecting the oceans from pollution.   Increasing ocean pollution is threatening all sea life and all of the oxygen originating from the natural process of photosynthesis conducted by the sun in the presence of CO2 and CO2-consuming algae.

CO2  is recycled by plants on land by photosynthesis where the sun, nutrients and water cooperate for plant growth, releasing oxygen into the air.   CO2 is also recycled by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in oceans where, also by photosynthesis, the sun plus nutrients and CO2 plus the algae, convert carbon (C) to carbohydrates and proteins.   This same process releases the oxygen (O2) into the water for diffusion into the atmosphere.   More than half of our oxygen is estimated to originate from the growth of these specialized algae in the oceans covering 70% of the planet.

Rising Oxygen Demand

For 250 years the demand for oxygen needed for human respiration and the combustion of all hydrocarbon and biomass fuels has been increasing at an accelerating rate.   The supply of CO2 available for recycling oxygen is relatively limited.   Will enough oxygen continue to be available for all human and creature needs?   The physicist William Thomson (Lord Kelvin, 1824-1907), Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), was concerned more than 100 years ago that reduced oxygen availability for increasing oxygen demands would eventually become a problem for human survival.

Why The Greenhouse Gas Theory Is Not Valid

Misunderstandings about CO2 and its linkage to global warming began with the publication of CO2 measurements by Dr. Charles Keeling (1928-2005).   The Keeling Curve has shown a steady rise since 1955 of 315 parts per million by volume in air to presently 380.   Coincidentally, many investigators noted a general temperature rise of about one degree Celsius (nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit) during the twentieth century.   Increasing combustion of hydrocarbon fuels with comparable CO2 emission increases seemed to be the cause.   A heat-trapping theory was derived from these observations, denoting "greenhouse gases" to be responsible for "global warming".   The greenhouse gases selected were CO2, the oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, plus methane and ozone, with carbon dioxide representing by far the largest measurable factor.   Carbon monoxide (CO) should probably have been included.    But this greenhouse gas theory mistakenly excludes the three major atmospheric gases: Nitrogen, at more than 75%, oxygen 23%, and argon 1% of our atmosphere by dry gas molecular weight.   Water vapor is also excluded although it may average about 2% worldwide.   All of these gases including CO2 at only four one-hundredths of one percent constitute an atmosphere warmed mostly by the sun.    Our sun is known to have cycles of variable intensity and of both short and long duration.   This atmosphere is held close to Earth by the force of gravity.   It is not valid to select out the very minor constituent CO2 at 0.04% content as the principal cause of global warming while ignoring the major gases together totaling more than 99% of the entire atmosphere, then also ignoring the largest factor by far which is the variable intensity warming of this atmosphere, and Earth itself, by the Sun.

The greenhouse gas theory of human-generated global warming is an indirect and unprovable theory derived from the measurement of increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere.   Alternatively, a direct and provable human warming theory is available and based on long-known information.   We humans produce a lot of heat and it is virtually all measurable.

The Human Generation Of Heat

The October 1970 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists included a paper entitled "Environmental Effects of Energy Production" by Donald F. Anthrop, now Professor Emeritus of San Jose State University.    Anthrop explained the growing "waste heat" disposal and "thermal pollution" impacts on the atmosphere and on "the ecology of the freshwater or marine systems in which waste heat is disposed.   Fossil fuel steam generating plants convert only 30 to 35 percent of the total thermal energy into electricity.   The remaining 60 to 70 percent must be dissipated, usually in a body of water.   Nuclear plants are considerably less efficient and are unlikely to match the efficiency of fossil fuel plants within the next 20 years.    Thus, dissipation of waste heat becomes a very serious problem."    This problem has continued to grow without notice since Anthrop so incisively called attention in 1970.   Human contributions of heat to global warming have been overlooked due to the emphasis on blaming CO2 via the greenhouse gas heat-trapping theory.

There are three principal sources of man-made heat: (1) the heat of respiration and metabolism of the 6.5 billion human beings, up from about 750 million at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750 A.D., (2) the heat of combustion of all hydrocarbon and biomass fuels, steadily increasing, and (3) the heat of radiation after 1945 of all stored nuclear weapons (thousands) and of all nuclear fuel continuously in use in 103 active reactors in the United States and about 445 worldwide; plus increasing amounts of stored spent nuclear fuel, now more than 50 thousand tons in the U.S. alone, which will radiate high levels of heat for hundreds of years.   Only by recycling spent fuel can this source of heat be limited other than by safe burial in widely dispersed deep underground sites.

For comparison, all U.S. human-generated heat emissions for the year 2006 are here summarized from our recent study of principal sources.   Heat outputs (see graph below) are expressed in quadrillions (Quads, 10 to the 15th power) of British Thermal Units (Btu's): the metabolism of 300 million humans 1.314, coal 19, natural gas 22, oil 42.7, nuclear active fuel 8.76, nuclear stored spent fuel 45.11.   Total nuclear 53.87.   The heat emissions from stored nuclear fuel will increase an esimated 2.26 Quads in every year that the existing fleet of 103 reactors continues to operate, based on refuelings every 22 months.   This total excludes the thousands of stored nuclear warheads continuously radiating heat.

In the United States today, nuclear power plants are by far the largest point sources of anthropogenic heat entering Earth's atmosphere.   The average U.S. reactor has been refueled more than ten times.   Spent fuel heat radiation is conservatively estimated at one-half the constant heat diffusion rate of fresh fuel.   By 2006, spent fuel stored on plant sites had added five-fold to the heat generated and released annually by all of the continuously operating 1,000 megawatt reactors.

Restoring World Waterways

CO2 has been blamed for increasing the acidity of oceans.   But the increase is most likely caused by many acids entering from the air including nitric acid, sulfuric, sulfurous and hydrochloric; from land runoff due to overfertilization and animal wastes; and from within overfertilized oxygen-depleted waters which evolve hydrogen sulfide, a strong acid, by microbial growth.   Marine waterways worldwide are becoming more polluted and the unrestricted dumping of sewage and wastewater is implicated in the overfertilization of vast areas.   A single large cruise ship with several thousand passengers and crew can overfertilize hundreds of square miles with each sewage discharge causing algae blooms by oxygen-consuming microbes, turning large areas of sea hypoxic.   In Microbes and Man, 3rd ed. (Cambridge 1992) p. 34, John Postgate (FRS) commented that "Salty water tends to kill microbes ... a circumstance for which the inhabitants of Great Britain have cause to be grateful because their islands are situated in what is now a sea of dilute sewage."    Surely it is time to end the dumping of sewage and untreated wastewater in international waters.   This problem has a solution.

It is believed that insufficient CO2 is available at the surface of overfertilized waterways, both marine and freshwater, to accommodate photosynthesis by the specialized algae which require CO2 for growth.   This natural process normally recharges oxygen for the respiration needs of all gilled creatures and likely also for the health of coral reefs.    Symptoms of the problem abound: in the San Francisco Bay Estuary, Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River Delta with 6,000 square miles of "dead sea" nearly six months of every year, the Tampa Bay region with its seasonal "Red Tides"   --   then the widespread problems of freshwater overfertilization exemplified by the Milwaukee River in Wisconsin.

A New Kyoto Accord

The Kyoto Protocol concept is needed for an increasingly interdependent world.   But changes are necessary.   The phrase "greenhouse gas" should be deleted.    Carbon dioxide should be removed as a threat.   CO2 should be promoted for its high value in recycling oxygen.   More emphasis needs to be placed on reductions in particulate and soot (unburned carbon) emissions and on further reductions in nitrogen and sulfur oxide emissions (NOx and SOx), carbon monoxide and ammonia.    Waste heat emissions should be reduced so far as is possible, primarily by a continuing emphasis on the development of new high-efficiency power systems.   The protection of all waterways is crucial and new means of waste water purification should be encouraged.    An enduring international agreement to protect the world ecosystem is today seen as indispensable for continuing human life even for a few hundred more years, but it must be carefully reasoned and based on facts, not theoretical propositions.

Human-generated heat must be responsible for any atmospheric warming attributed to humans although it is mostly diffused into the cold region above Earth's atmosphere by the physical forces of radiation and convection.   Future studies can determine if human-generated heat sources might have to be reduced.   International cooperation to support a continuous monitoring program is recommended under a new Kyoto Accord.   All warming studies should be at sea level, worldwide and at all latitudes.   Measurements should also include the sea level air content of O2 and CO2 and the surface water content of dissolved O2 and CO2.

The Benefits Of More Carbon Dioxide

Today's carbon dioxide crisis is problematic because the greenhouse gas theory is not valid and atmospheric CO2 content is so small that it cannot cause climate change.   But there are no published studies on a preferred level of CO2.   It is believed that quite a large increase would be beneficial if it could be achieved because 1) sufficient oxygen resources for ever-increasing human respiration and fuel combustion needs would be more assured, 2) agricultural crop production would be enhanced and 3) CO2-consuming algae (phytoplankton) growth rates would increase to provide more food and dissolved oxygen for the restoration of depleted and hypoxic marine and freshwater fisheries.

Finally, the restriction of CO2 emissions by "cap and trade" controls, the sequestering of CO2 deep underground or in oceans, or the use of new taxes to discourage CO2 outputs must be rejected.   These ideas embody high costs with no environmental benefits.

The several proposed cap and trade rules all provide for saleable emission allowances which will protect old inefficient power plants, extending their lives by yet another "grandfather" scheme.   Such rules will have the unintentional effect of slowing the development of new high efficiency and low emission systems for many years.   Hopefully the American public will protest in time to head off the present day pied pipers leading us into this quagmire of harmful new regulations.

June 2007              Krebs & Sisler, L.P.           www.krebsandsislerlp.com