Does CO2 Stink a Little to You?


I’ve tended to be pretty neutral about the whole debate on climate change and CO2 alarmism or denial in our society.

A few months back, while viewing an internet presentation, I heard a very young school kid declare how we were so "bad" to wreck the Earth with our CO2 lifestyle —— that made me wonder.
Why does this little kid think she knows so much and believe it so deeply?
How come she was able to stand on that stage in front of a microphone, in front of an audience of so many mature adults, and so comfortably be able to declare what she did?
She declared it outloud! as 'just so!' — in a very well-rehearsed discourse and took her stance with such a sense of justice. But — all the while, if you cared to notice — she didn't particularly back up anything with concrete evidence; evidence that would convince a guy like me or would convince others who need more than just the hyperbole that has become so rampant and common in our recent society. It was mostly a presentation of emotion, innuendo and scare tactics. By the end, it all felt a bit surreal, empty, incomplete, embellished.


It was almost as if (and I don't want to sound like a 'conspiracy person' here) grown adults in domineering, influencial educational positions with access to young, impressionable, open minds had fed her very specific, biased 'info' (that they, themselves, hadn't vetted) and she lapped it up just like any young human would... then they plopped her on a stage with careful, memorized lines and the resulting visual was powerful... especially to people who may not be used to thinking things through in life.


But, it did initiate one thing in me at least —— this overt display of 'social mantra' or 'dogma' really concerned me. I decided I needed to know more. At that point I hadn't paid much attention to this whole 'climate change' trend so in earnest I started reading all sorts of source material on both sides of the argument. I thought I’d try to uncover what was really going on. I wanted to be as fair as can be, as open-minded as can be. Yet, as I researched, I'd often catch myself thinking, "How come I'm finding most of the information so polarized and seemingly subjective?"

I kept at it for weeks, dedicating a few hours here and a few there. Turns out it’s hard to get solid, unbiased information. Both sides have their stack of ‘experts’ of course and arguments can appear convincing from each. But from looking into it simply based on science, there are some quirky little things about CO2, the inert gas, and how it accumulates in the air, multiplies and how that effect affects temperature in the atmosphere around it. Things that make the climate-change-alarmist side a bit harder to warm up to… (I made a pun!)


All experts agree, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere has varied a great deal over time. Sometimes it has been lower than it is now and sometimes it has been much higher. It is also true that the Earth’s average yearly temperature has been both a lot hotter and lot colder at various times in the past. But, there is no evidence that CO2 has caused the temperature to change in the past. I’ve found that all studies of temperature and CO2 levels in the past show that it is the temperature changing that precedes the CO2 level change and not the other way around.

Before modern industrialization began in the late 1700s, the natural level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has been determined to be about 270 parts per million. It is now considered to be about 386 parts per million (December, 2016). This suggests, we are told, that humans have added about 116 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of our industrial progress and activities. (This is a logical fallacy by the way).

CO2 is a gas that makes up a tiny, tiny part of the atmosphere. To put the figures above in a different way: There used to be about 27 molecules of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of air and now there are roughly 39 molecules of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of air. So humans, it is suggested, have added about 12 molecules of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of air in the last 300 years or so.

Here, let’s picture that in another way. I'll try to give you an idea of the scale of CO2 compared to the total atmosphere. The Calgary Tower in southern Alberta is 627 feet high (191 metres) (taken from Wiki). If the height of the Calgary Tower represented the total height of the atmosphere then ‘natural’ levels of CO2 would be 2 inches of that height (5.1 centimetres) and the amount added by humans up until today would be an extra .9 inch (2.2 centimetres).

We are told that humans are adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere at the rate of about 2 to 3 parts per million every year. People are told to believe that CO2 addition at those levels is causing dramatic change. This is pushed with much social pressure and constant propaganda which includes the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph like the one below.

The following graph, presented by climate scientists, shows the estimated atmospheric CO2 levels over the last 10,000 years. It comes from ice core data for CO2 levels before 1950. For data values after 1950, direct measurements from Mauna Loa, Hawaii were used. (Food for thought: Mauna Loa has historically been considered the largest volcano on Earth. Just think about that for a minute - what do volcanoes spew out?)

CO2 levels (parts per million) over the past 10,000 years. Blue line from Taylor Dome ice cores (NOAA).
Green line from Law Dome ice core (
CDIAC). Red line from direct measurements at Mauna Loa, Hawaii (NOAA).


I found Mauna Loa is often used as an example of rising carbon dioxide levels because it’s the longest, continuous series of directly measured atmospheric CO2 data. The reason why it's acceptable to use Mauna Loa as a proxy for global CO2 levels is because CO2 has been found to mix easily and well throughout the atmosphere. Consequently, the trend in Mauna Loa CO2 (1.64 ppm per year) is considered statistically indistinguishable from the trend in global CO2 levels (1.66 ppm per year). If global CO2 was used in the graph, the resulting 'hockey stick' shape would be virtually identical, we are told.

However, in my opinion, having had another existence in life when part of my job was preparing many statistical graphs on plant production, warehouse traffic, staff efficiency tracking, budget spending, warranty tracking, etc. — I completely understand how easy it is to 'bend', 'skew', 'subjectively present' information and data so it appears in your favour when in fact it is merely neutral or even negative in some cases.

I noticed immediately that the graph used a known technique among 'clerk' types that I consider a bit dishonest.
Notice the y axis starts at 250 ppm instead of zero. This misleads the reader, who is looking quickly at the chart trend, into thinking that CO
2 levels have undergone a huge increase in recent centuries. If the data were plotted more objectively, with the y axis starting at zero, the true scope of the change displayed becomes far less exaggerated and obviously not as dramatic and probably not alarming enough to impress any urgent reaction on readers of the publication. The first style of chart (the one displayed) will always be more tempting to publish than the second (as I suggested) by researchers if they were on the 'climate-change-is-danger!' side.

Perhaps this is a fine example of the now popular idea of ‘alternative’ facts? There is truth, then there is a clever spinning of truth to make it seem contrary or sensational.

The trace level of CO2 in the atmosphere is not poisonous (it’s an inert gas) or directly damaging in any way but CO2 in the air does have two important effects. One is good and one is thought to be seriously bad.

Let's start with the good. CO2 is plant food. It is generally accepted that the extra CO2 pumped into the air (as a byproduct of our industrial output, agricultural innovations and enhanced way of life) has increased global plant growth by about 10% to 15% in the last century. That means about 15% extra growth on the globe from this natural fertilizer and about 15% more food for humans.

But CO2 is also a ‘greenhouse gas’ and this, it is explained, is a bad thing. Earth receives incoming heat from the Sun and it then radiates away heat into space. Greenhouse gases are various substances in the atmosphere that impede or reduce the amount of heat radiated away from the earth causing more heat to be trapped within the atmosphere. There are several greenhouses gases. Water vapour (in the form of clouds) is by far hugely more abundant and most important to the greenhouse effect. CO2 is so very much less significant than water vapour.

Let me explain what a greenhouse gas does.

The energy that reaches Earth is from the Sun's shortwave radiation that passes through the atmosphere easily to hit the Earth’s surface. It is not absorbed by the greenhouse gases on its way down because the wave length of the energy is too high, too vigorous. At the surface, some energy is absorbed, some reflected, but most importantly, energy that is re-radiated upwards now does so at longer wavelengths — as ‘heat’. Some of this heat radiation is at just the right wavelength to be in fact absorbed by the carbon dioxide molecules and water vapour in the air as it passes through them towards space. This absorbed energy is reemitted by the carbon dioxide and water molecules. So this is why they say that more CO2 in the atmosphere means that outgoing heat is 'trapped' and this bit gets added back to the atmosphere in the form of low energy waves, very slowly, gradually warming the planet over centuries of time.

The obvious question becomes: is the amount of warming enough to be significant?

As explained above the heat bouncing back into space has a different, longer wavelength compared to the ultraviolet energy coming in but only a portion of these new wavelengths are absorbed by the CO2. CO2 only ever absorbs a very narrow band of the heat bouncing back out of the atmosphere so there is an upper limit, a threshhold, as to how much heat CO2 can absorb. Even if the atmosphere was entirely CO2, lots of the heat spectrum would still get out and the temperature would only increase to a certain point.

I noticed that this is where the arguments get fuzzy and confusing. From what they suggest to us, it is easy to get the wrong impression and to think, for example, that CO2 is cumulatively adding more and more heat to the atmosphere in some sort of runaway, exponential process — like a runaway train or a growing snowball rolling down a mountain. But this can't happen. The chemistry doesn't work that way.

A good way to think about it is to imagine an aluminium pot, full of water. If you place that pot in direct hot sunlight outside on the sidewalk, the water will get warmer. But no matter how long you leave the pot in the sunlight, and you could do it for hours and hours, the pot of water would never boil. It will never get hot enough to do so. Even if you painted the pot black and put it back in the sunlight the water would get a bit hotter than before but the water would still not boil. Without stretching this analogy too far you can think of the black paint on our pot as the rising CO2 levels — it’s pushing the temperature up a bit but it can only do it so far.

As I mentioned at the beginning, before manmade emissions added to the CO2 in the atmosphere, there was already a level of CO2 in the air — a level which was the natural occurring level for this particular period of Earth’s history, whether we were here or not. It has been calculated and is generally accepted that this natural level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was already high enough to absorb virtually all the infrared radiation, produced by the Earth-Sun combination, of the right wavelength that can be absorbed by the CO2 molecule.

Because most of the energy which CO2 can absorb was already being absorbed before the CO2 level was increased, any subsequent addition of CO2 can only absorb a small extra bit of energy. (i.e. Increasing CO2 but not increasing output from the Sun wouldn’t cause much change here on Earth). Even if the atmosphere were heavily laden with carbon dioxide, it would still only cause an incremental increase in the amount of infrared absorption over current levels and temperatures could only go up fractionally. For example, doubling carbon dioxide would not double the amount of global warming. This has been confirmed by climate scientist's own measurements and calculations made since the industrial revolution. In fact, it’s been discovered that the effect of carbon dioxide is roughly logarithmic. Each time carbon dioxide is doubled, the increase in temperature only remains the same as the previous increase. The reason for this is that, eventually, all the long-wave radiation that can be absorbed has already been absorbed. There is no ‘new’ long wave radiation being produced.

It would be analogous to closing more and more shades over the window of your house on a sunny day — it soon reaches the point where constantly doubling the number of shades in the window frame, then closing them, can’t make it any darker in the room inside.

Another way of looking at it is by thinking of adding blankets to your bed on a cold night. If you have no blankets, adding one will have a big effect. Add 4 more and yes, it may feel even cozier. But if you add a hundred more blankets on top of you, it begins to make no change to the warmth you experience. Your body only produces so much heat (like the Sun only provides a finite amount of energy). Adding another thousand blankets will have an unmeasurably, teeny-tiny effect (well, except for the fact of probably crushing you to death ).

So here is some basic, agreed upon information that I’ve been able to discern so far from reading about the basic physics of this CO2 greenhouse warming. It is reliably estimated, and generally accepted on both sides, that the current elevated levels of CO2 has added about 2 watts of heat per square meter across the entire globe above the natural level assumed at pre-industrialization. In order to picture this, think of a square meter of the ground and then think of the whole column of air sitting above that square meter, stretching miles up, all the way into the vacuum of space above us. Then think about adding one 30th of a sixty watt light bulb's heat, glowing on your desktop, to that entire column of air and dispersing it throughout, completely. That’s not a huge amount of energy. 

For various reasons that are publically available, climate scientists have also said that most of the heating from the CO2 greenhouse effect is expected to take place in the upper atmosphere. Yet, satellite measurements of upper atmosphere temperatures do not show much warming in the upper atmosphere of Earth in recent decades; the heating that has taken place appears to be near the surface where they did not expect it and the sources of data at these altitudes has been called into question on many occasions due to measurement technique, equipment style and even equipment placement with respect to 'heat-sink' type areas. The satellite data is at odds with the CO2 warming effect hypothesis of most advocates. Not much is said of this unfortunately and I think it would go far if they could provide credible explanations to account for this.

Instead, it is smoothed right over and just 'empirically' claimed and advertised that heating from CO2 has pushed general global temperature up and will continue to do so in the future in a dangerous, even disastrous way. Yet no authority on the subject seems to be able to prove for sure whether the gradual warming of 0.7 degrees, that is said to have occurred in the average yearly global temperature over the last 100 years or so, is the result of manmade CO2, natural warming of some sort relating to Sun activity and consequential Earth response to that, or a combination of both, or something else altogether that we haven't considered...

The natural level of CO2 before we started adding extra CO2 was about 270 parts per million. Since the industrial revolution it is said to have increased 116 part per million but they can't be absolutely sure it was all man-driven. Like I said, the climate alarmists' own numbers claim that the overall yearly temperature has climbed only 0.7 degrees Celsius in that entire time.
This doesn’t seem particularly alarming to me.
But probably sensing the same thing themselves, they have created a few climate models that predict that Earth will warm much more quickly now. That initial .7 degrees will be visited by a quickening climb of yearly temperature increase to an expected 2 to 6 degrees Celsius in the next century if something isn’t done to curtail our destructive actions.

Yet, I must go back over it, -science-. It is so easy to get caught up in the hyperbole.
Because the effect of extra CO
2 is logarithmic, in order to add another 0.7 in temperature we would have to add about another 200 parts per million taking the total up to 480. This total, even admitted by the alarmists, would take full out abuse with our carbon emmissions and even then would probably not be reached until the end of this century. This would mean that the total yearly temperature increase due to CO2 increases from preindustrial times right up to the end of the 21st century would be 1.4 and we have had half that increase already. And then, the next century, to add an additional 0.7 on top of that we would have to add another 400 parts per million taking the total up 880, the next 0.7 would take an extra 800 parts per million taking the total up to 1680 parts per million and so on. As we get closer and closer to maxing out the capacity of our planet's carbon dioxide, it will take more and more of it to cause any noticeable difference.

So even if we accept that all the warming of the last century or so is solely the result of manmade emissions of CO2 then we are only likely to see a further rise of about 0.7 in the next 100 years at present rates. This is a pretty trivial figure and on its own I don't think will cause humans, or most species or even the planet overall too much of a problem. Climate may shift or change from what we have historically experienced (and so minimally), but it always has. Earth's history is a long tale of many, many states of environment and the lifeforms adapt, life goes on.

Another concern... The climate alarmists create their computer models to project what might happen to the climate in the future in various scenarios. But, suspiciously, these climate models tend to produce wildly different results even from one guy's model to another person's model and they all failed to predict climate changes like the absolute cessation of yearly warming that happened just this past decade.
It makes one leery of accepting their claims and predictions.

The new trend I've noticed in the newer publications is to tweak their models to propose that the small warming that CO2 might cause over the next 100 years, however small it may seem (hedging their bets?), isn't the greatest issue. They say this small warming will subsequently trigger various 'feedback mechanisms' and it’s these mechanisms that will push the temperature even higher. But considering the track record of these experts, the models used to estimate these proposed 'feedback mechanisms' appear very speculative and arbitrary also. They don’t convince.

But that doesn't seem to matter. Usually climate change enthusiasts, the vast groups below the 'experts', will pick from the models with the most extreme, biased predictions supporting their arguments and then publicise these as 'facts' in a sensational way, in articles, documentaries and school curriculums in order to increase concern and alarm and of course, justify the need for continued funding, or new fees disguised inside green energy hysteria.

Yeah, I know it's not a good thing to wreck our Earth. I think solar and wind energy has its merits. I like the idea of less packaging and waste. We shouldn't pour crap into our rivers, cut down all our forests, pollute the environment or jet-set around the world in a frenzy on 20,000 fuel hogging jets a day! But this whole cult of carbon dioxide alarm/the religious green thing... it's vague, manic and a wee bit scary...

Let me ask a couple uncomfortable questions: Do you see your fellow humans curtailing their lifestyles?

Here's a telling radar shot of our current love for travelling...
(we're certainly goobling up massive fuel & then spitting out massive CO2 to do so...
What's the proportion of person-to-their-CO2-footprint here?)...

...and this one is just ironic...

Do you see people flocking to turning off the heat in their house, driving only on Sundays, cancelling their Jamaican vacations, not buying that plastic gadget because of the tremendous energy consumed to create it, not eating bananas in northern Canada, not showering every single day, not ordering a scarf off eBay? If you are honest, the answer is no. It's all talk, it's all indoctrination, it's all pretty hypocritical. You only need to look to your government leaders for that amusing example let alone old Sally down the street or your own city community.

Anyway, I research onward.

I now tend to think that climate change/global warming may not be caused by CO2 at all --
perhaps it's simply caused by the desire for increased tax revenue?
Maybe that's all it's ever been about...



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