The Las Vegas Review-Journal has published what may be the lamest denialist op-ed I've ever read. The basic conceit is set forth in the title: "If we seek to limit CO2, why not water?"
I'm no climatologist, but it took me roughly one second to come up with a basic answer: water vapor condenses rapidly and falls to the earth in the form of rain and snow, while CO2 remains in the atmosphere for years.
This is something the author should've learned in school. This is something the author could've learned from Google in under a minute. This is something the author could've confirmed with a phone call or e-mail to any one of literally thousands of scientists and teachers, including ones who are skeptical about AGW. But you can't let facts get in the way of a good story. And what story is better than one in which you're the hero 'cause you're smarter than most of the scientists on earth?
On to the actual arguments. First off, there's the classic "horrors of dihydrogen oxide" gambit:
Inform someone that the substance di-hydrogen oxide is so corrosive that a new steel nail exposed to the stuff will rust within hours; so deadly that a person attempting to breathe pure di-hydrogen oxide will die of asphyxiation in mere minutes. Now ask the subject whether he or she agrees this di-hydrogen oxide stuff should be tightly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency -- labeled as a poison, kept out of the hands of children, and so forth.Alright. I'm willing to concede that if you ask an ignorant person whether experts should label water as a poison, he or she may say yes. But the thing is, experts don't label water as a poison, which suggests that the people in charge of regulating poisons are, in fact, somewhat better at chemistry than the average person who doesn't recognize "dihydrogen oxide" as a synonym for water. By the same logic, then, it's just barely possible that climate scientists know more about CO2 than some witless jerkoff at the LVRJ.
I suppose I should also mention that our society routinely limits the access of children to pools of dihydrogen oxide, for the simple reason that we don't want them to fucking drown themselves.
[C]arbon dioxide is not a toxin. It occurs naturally in the atmosphere and is vital to the ecology of the planet.Even if you spent your school years huffing solvents and drawing unicorns on your binder, you could still have learned about the toxicity of CO2 from the countless movies and TV shows where it's a plot device. Failing that, you could have learned about it from the Lake Nyos disaster of 1986. There's virtually no excuse for not knowing that CO2 is toxic, and there's even less excuse for pretending that it isn't, and there's even less excuse than that for pretending that global warming has to do with the toxicity of CO2 as opposed to the fact that it's a highly persistent goddamn greenhouse gas, for fuck's sake.
But even if I'm right, who cares? Greenhouse gases are doubleplusgood:
If the globe were to continue warming at a rate of about one degree per century, the biggest impact on mankind would likely be that crops could be grown further north.Sure. And if I were to age at the rate of about one day per year, I could live for centuries. Just imagine how much I could make on the stock market!
In summation: We're dealing with someone who believes — or claims to believe — that CO2 is nontoxic, that there's no appreciable difference between carbon dioxide and water vapor, that human CO2 emissions are insignificant compared to natural ones, and that the warming predicted by climatologists is on the order of one degree per century. All of which proves, naturally, that scientists comprise an Arrogant Priesthood of Irrational Zealots:
And here we thought "science" was a discipline that valued reason and skepticism, while occasionally demanding experimental proofs.Hear that, geniuses? Put aside those computer models, and get busy proving that certain levels of CO2 are toxic, and that water vapor and CO2 have different residence times and different effects on the climate. Then, and only then, will you be taken seriously by intelligent people.
UPDATE: Carbon dioxide is plant food. Say it again: plant food!
(Illustration via Environmental Education Science Partnership.)