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June 13, 2008

I'm More And More Impressed By The Intellectual Force Of Global Warming Deniers

I think we should give a fair hearing to those who claim man-made global warming isn't a problem. Let's get the case direct from John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel:

Here is the deal about CO2, carbon dioxide...I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t.

You can't help but be convinced by the SCIENCE!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 13, 2008 01:22 PM

Thank God this wisdom is finally seeing the light of day.

I also totally resent that many people continue to be deluded into believing this tiny trace molecule can be central to the respiration of all plants on earth. It can't. That's all there is to it.

And don't get me started on ozone.

Posted by: Patrick at June 13, 2008 01:49 PM

How can 1 donator in 10^7 Silicon atoms change the objects conductivity? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t.

Posted by: generic at June 13, 2008 02:08 PM

Actually I find something even more alarming than his main point. That square in front of his face contains many more than 100,000 molecules - not that there is such a thing as an atmosphere molecule. A cube in front of his face about one foot on a side contains about 10^23 gas molecules. His statement is off by a factor of about 1 000 000 000 000 000 000, which ought to be enough to disqualify him from making any statement at all.

Generic - I appreciate that fantastic comment. Very nice!

Sad point - Alexander Cockburn made the same point in the Nation about a year ago. I was very upset about the ridiculously poor science education he exhibited that I now take his other writings much less seriously.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at June 13, 2008 02:38 PM

That is a good point. Similarly, lead is really a very small part of my water supply.

How could that tiny trace amount make my kid sluggish, deaf, sick and blind? It can't.

Even when the lead in your water is at 60 parts per billion, only about 1 out of every 5000 children suffer learning disabilities. That means it must not be true.

Posted by: Dave at June 13, 2008 02:47 PM

A cube in front of his face about one foot on a side contains about 10^23 gas molecules. His statement is off by a factor of about 1 000 000 000 000 000 000

And...what? What's the big deal?

To understand how unimportant this is, let's try a simple thought experiment:

On Monday, I have one cat.

On Tuesday, that cat gives birth to a quintillion more cats. (For the purposes of this thought experiment, they are born fully grown.)

In that 24 hours, have the circumstances of my life really changed?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 13, 2008 02:58 PM

Until WE stop driving cars and turn out ALL the lights, it don't matter who believes what, its just gonna happen.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 13, 2008 04:39 PM


Yes, I know exactly what you mean about Alexander Cockburn. His debate about a year ago with George Monbiot made him look like an utter scientifically illiterate moron with a comically large ego. I read his contributions with a hand over one eye.

And ever since I have been incapable of taking a single thing he writes seriously. I know barely anything about climate science either, but you don't see me claiming that some guy I met on a cruise ship has overturned twenty years of rigorous peer-reviewed science. Cockburn has the tragic flaw of thinking his pronouncements on global warming have an equal intellectual grounding with his pronouncements on domestic US politics.

Posted by: Alaya at June 13, 2008 04:40 PM

Don't these people ever get drunk?

Posted by: Justin at June 13, 2008 04:47 PM

Cockburn (Alex, that is) is like his website--worth reading sometimes and a total waste of time at others.

Speaking of websites, what's the movie on this site that makes my computer all upset? It's been complaining about it for a day or two every time I visit.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 13, 2008 04:47 PM

No, Justin, they can't get drunk. Because they figure that getting drunk requires them to have more than a trace amount of alcohol in their system. So they try to get up to a significant level of alcohol. But when their blood is more than about 1 part alcohol in every 500 parts water, they die. Without yet being drunk. It's quite sad.

Posted by: hedgehog at June 13, 2008 07:35 PM

why does he have a square in front of his face in the first place? what is he trying to hide?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at June 14, 2008 07:53 AM

In that 24 hours, have the circumstances of my life really changed?

Johnathan, the laugh that incited caused me physical pain.

Has anyone noticed that the rightwing has a direct advantage from destroying our educational system? They aren't really good liars -- just passionate ones. Gut education and they can completely phone their lies in.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at June 14, 2008 12:14 PM

I hear this argument a lot from the logic-impaired. They dismiss the fact that ~ 98% of the atmosphere has no effect on global warming and that that ~ 2% is what makes earth more than a rocky ball of ice.

Were one lying in a room at 60 degrees F, adding a blanket (one about .003% of room's volume) wouldn't make you any warmer, I assume.

Posted by: cavjam at June 14, 2008 02:16 PM

"In that 24 hours, have the circumstances of my life really changed?"

I would have to say "no" because (based on reading your book) I would say your life was pretty weird already. Maybe it got stinkier??

Posted by: Susan - NC at June 14, 2008 02:54 PM

Well, to be fair to the dude, he DID specify a SQUARE in front of his face, rather than a cube. So, properly speaking, we should consider the number of atoms which would intersect a specific square (of unspecified size, I will note), which depends on the radius of the molecules involved, how energetic they are (if we're going to consider oscillations in and out of the plane), etc. This could all get pretty complex.

Posted by: saurabh at June 14, 2008 03:38 PM

Cars produce carbon MONOXIDE

Posted by: Jimmy Mac at June 14, 2008 03:57 PM

Jimmy Mac: So do cigaretts, but ya don't see me quitting, do ya? Gotta light?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 14, 2008 04:40 PM

Hey Mike Meyer
John Coleman's speech addressed carbon dioxide and said it had no harmful affects carbon monoxide does. and not on the scale of smoking a cigarette, you moron
Tell you what, I'll stand in a closed garage w/ someone smoking for an hour
You go stand in a closed garage w/ the engine running- get back to me will ya?

Posted by: Jimmy Mac at June 14, 2008 06:56 PM

Jimmy Mac: Please, do I call YOU names? I'm deeply wounded. I know I didn't pass that test in the school yard in third grade, but to have it follow me to aged 60, well hurts. So what YOU are is saying is, "Keep driving as it ONLY produces carbon MONOXIDE instead of carbon DIOXIDE." (I guess I never really thought of it that way)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 14, 2008 07:19 PM

Ok Mike, sorry for calling you a moron. You are merely logically challenged and I should be more sensitive. That being said, how's the test in your garage coming? Be sure to take the full hour to produce an accurate test. Please let me know what you come up with, I am on the edge of my seat.

Posted by: Jimmy Mac at June 14, 2008 07:36 PM

Jimmy Mac: I stepped out for a cigarette in the middle of it. I wish YOU had said something earlier, as now the little needle is on E. If ya got 4 buck for a gallon, perhaps YOU could do the experiment YOURSELF. (wrap YOUR lips around the exhaust pipe and suck on it, it will SAVE GAS)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 14, 2008 09:01 PM

WOW! Pretty harsh for an old man. Couldn't help wondering if you read the speech that started this forum. You are wonderfully articulate and if you give me your address, I'll send you the 4 bucks.

Posted by: Jimmy Mac at June 14, 2008 09:43 PM

Jimmy Mac: Keep yer money, but thanks for the offer, though.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 14, 2008 10:20 PM

i win

Posted by: Jimmy Mac at June 15, 2008 01:10 PM

Jimmy & Mike: What was that all about?

First of all, cars produce both Carbon Dioxide [CO2] AND Carbon Monoxide [CO], the amount depending in part on how well adjusted they are. Newer cars produce less CO, but still enough to off you if you run your car in your garage.

CO is believed to be implicated in reduction of hydroxyl radicals, and because of that they are implicated in increasing other greenhouse gases, adding to global warming or destroying the ozone layer.

So... CO or CO2, take your choice.

I like the analogy to a blanket only constituting a small percentage of your bedroom, yet being able to warm you if you place it over you.

I have checked out peer reviewed sources for John Coleman's analysis ... strangely it is absent.

Posted by: cwcrosby42 at June 18, 2008 03:55 AM

cwcrosby42: I'm supposing that Jimmy was disputing my earlier comment that to stop climate change WE need to cease using cars and power plants. I believe that won't happen and permanate damage is inevitable. Maybe if WE had wide spread use of alternate energy sources in place things would be different, who knows, but they are too long, long a way off to affect even a slowdown. Too little, too late. The rich would gladly volunteer US to stop driving and turn off the lights, but on our own--no way. Up until 1900 AD the human race was actually living in harmony with the earth, though not with each other. The 20th century and ALL that came with it is what is killing our environment. Step back 100 yrs, before the entire planet became invested in fossil fuels, and WE are back on course to invest in wind, solar, and hydrogen--sustainability. The problem isn't the science, its the monetary investment strategy.(conservative to the point of reactionary, yet???)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 18, 2008 11:55 AM