Today’s co2 level is about 410 parts per million. For the 60 million years since life emerged from the last catastrophic asteroid strike the average co2 level of the earth was 2000 parts per million.
Man has been feeding the plants of the Earth a growing rich mixture of co2 since 1945. 95% of all co2 produced by man has been produced since 1945. In 1945 co2 levels were about 305. So we have added 105 parts per million in the last 75 years or so.
The effects of this large increase in co2 are to some people are already evident as negative effects. They rarely mention the positive effects.
The biggest positive effect is probably the greening of the Earth. NASA studies show that the Earths plant life has grown by 30% since 1980 alone. Since satellites have measured the amount of carbon on the surface it has grown. Not just on farms but everywhere.
This greening has contributed greatly to the tripling of food output in the last 60 years and nearly 100% increase in productivity of our farms. Some 30% of this increase may be attributable to the inadvertent increase of co2.
In the 1980s I remember that 600+ million people were on the verge of starving to death. That number due to the amazing advances in agriculture and our unknown until recently fertilizing of the atmosphere with co2 has led to a drastic reduction in the starving to 100 million. Maybe less.
Co2 is one of the most beneficent chemicals in the environment. Plants breathe co2 and combined with photosynthesis split the co2 molecule in a few chemical reactions to produce the carbon plants we eat. The plants spit out the excess O2 which benefits animals as well as providing a food source for animals. This co2 is at the center of the food chain.
The more co2 in the atmosphere the more the plant can grow and the more oxygen it can release but it also means the plant needs to respire less. Less respiration means less evaporation. Plants with higher levels of co2 are resistant to drought. One of the things we’ve noticed lately is that tree rings no longer vary the way they used to. Trees getting more adequate amounts of co2 grow more consistently and don’t show a correlation to temperature we’ve seen In the past.
For millions and millions of years while we evolved and other living things the co2 level was between 4000-2000 parts per million which is only 2-4 parts per thousand of air. A remarkably small amount of the atmosphere considering how important it is to life.
Sometime around 3-6 million years ago co2 levels dropped dramatically to the current 180-400 range. At such low levels plants suffer tremendously. During the lows of the ice ages co2 levels have reached near 180ppm which is considered near the point that all plants on Earth would die of insufficient co2 to sustain themselves. It would end most life on earth more surely than anything else.
We have bounced off this dangerous low suggesting that plants have evolved to this as the low. Going below 180 would probably endanger new evolution which might allow life to continue but many times over the last 6 million years we have been an ice covered ball with barely any life surviving.
A consequence of reducing co2 levels would be a drop in productivity of agriculture of 30% as well as consequent damage to wildlife and humans. It would mean plants would be more sensitive to rainfall and drought.
Environmentalists never mention these facts. Be careful what you wish for. It’s pretty clear that the co2 we have put into the atmosphere so far has resulted in massive positive results on life and humans and reducing co2 below current levels of 400 would be very bad for humans and life. Much worse than raising it to 800 or higher.
How much co2 will man add to the atmosphere in the next 80 years
The IPCC has 3 scenarios. They call these 2.5, 4.5 and 8.5. The 8.5 scenario reaches 1400 ppm. The 4.5 scenario reaches 800ppm and the 2.5 scenario reaches 550ppm.
Our current rate of increase if we produced co2 at the rate we do today is about 2.5ppm/year.
If we did not increase or decrease co2 output after this year the co2 level in 80 years would be 610 or close to the 2.5 scenario. That assumes no increase but also no change in output for 80 years and effectively suggests that there is no technological change that affects this.
The difference from today is 1000ppm for 8.5, 400ppm for 4.5 and 150ppm for 2.5. To get 1000ppm means an average of 12.5ppm/year over the entire next 80 years but because we can’t raise co2 instantaneously it means that we need to raise it at a rate of 25ppm at the end of the period and steadily increase at 3.5% annually for 80 years in a row.
To get to 800 would require an annual growth rate of 2%. To keep it at 550 to 600 would require that we effectively stop all growth or that the rate rises but then decreases as we implement some technological fix.
Today the annual growth rate of co2 emissions is about 2%. Thus it would seem the 4.5 scenario is the business as usual that assumes no mitigation and continued unending growth of usage of fossil fuels for 80 years like today.
This is actually almost as ridiculous as the 8.5 scenario of 3.5% growth for 80 years which assumes a massive spike in our increase in use of fossil fuels. I don’t know what theory the IPCC has that we will do massively increase co2 output above even today’s extraordinary growth rate.
I believe the IPCC use the 8.5 as a way to produce scary graphs. They put it in so they can show really bad things happening sort of like Malthus predicted starvation but worse. It’s not a real scenario but a fantasy used to make things like the report the scare scientists at NASA did recently projecting 10F temperature change in 2100. It’s a fantasy that they use to cudgel people.
Of course this 10F prediction depends on computer models which have shown twice the temperature change we’ve actually seen. So the more likely effect if their theory is correct with more realistic models would be 5F which wouldn’t produce nearly the effects they can suggest with 10F. Pretty obviously this is a game. They created the 8.5 scenario simply to have a way to scare ignorant people who have no idea what any of this is or the science behind it.
What about 800?
The problem with 800 is it assumes the current growth is unabated for 80 years.
Let us say we did start to see negative effects from co2. Do we have an alternative?
We have a plethora of energy sources if we want. The biggest most obvious source is nuclear. We may eventually develop fusion but until then we have new fission reaction plants which are infinitely safer than traditional water fuel rod nuclear plants like produced 3 mile island and Fukushima. In a pinch humans could produce such plants rapidly and produce nearly infinite power with zero co2 output. Pure fear of nuclear is the only reason we wouldn’t do that. If faced with actual consequences there is no doubt in my mind we could and would turn to this.
The cost of solar energy and other sources is decreasing as the technology improves. It is inevitable given the exponentially rising rate of technical progress that we will have new sources of energy within 80 years. Nobody can guarantee such progress but it is unbelievable to assume we won’t either.
Another factor not considered is that there is a natural limit to energy use. We actually couldn’t use as much energy as projected from 2% increase. Such a result means that people need far more energy than they use today. That is unlikely in the future.
The US today is producing less co2 than it did and has done so for 10 years now. Part of this is because of a switch to LNG which is less producing of co2 but also because out energy use per person has peaked and is decreasing.
I, for instance have cut my energy usage by nearly 50%. Everything you own uses less energy. This trend will continue as we use telecommunications to circumvent travel more and more and cars switch to more and more electric. It is inevitable that actually the energy production in the US will decline over the next 80 years even with increasing population. The US population increased 20 million people or more than 6% in the last 10 years and yet total energy use and co2 output has decreased.
What happens in the US happens in the rest of the world eventually. Today many third world countries are advancing rapidly and their energy use is growing but their catching up at some point will taper off and they will show a leveling and then decrease just as the US has.
This will happen regardless of any environmentalist cause. This is just economics and advancing technology.
So, the projection of 2% for 80 years is unrealistic. There is no way short of massive stunting of technology and some unforeseen massive need for energy that we could be still using fossil fuels in such quantities in 2100 and using 5 times the energy worldwide as we do today with cars and other vehicles unchanged or becoming somehow even more co2 producing.
A more realistic view would be an eventual doubling of co2 output eventually turning down maybe in 30 or 50 years.
The corresponding more likely co2 level reached in 2100 is somewhere between 550-650.
The fact is some things that involve massive amounts of infrastructure are very hard to change. It is not likely we will grow energy usage in unlimited manner and produce it with the same technology and it is similarly unlikely that even if we discovered the magic energy producer that stopped co2 entirely that we could switch our current infrastructure overnight.
For instance my projections are that even with huge electric car adoption it will take the next 30 years to replace the gas cars on the road. On the other hand given the much higher efficiency and improvements in technology it is also unlikely we will still be driving gas cars in 50 years.
What this means is that the range of possible co2 scenarios is much smaller than the ipcc’s ranges. The most likely possible range of co2 in 2100 is between 550-650 with 90% probability.
This range of co2 levels is about a 30% increase over current levels. That is almost exactly the increase over the last 75 years. The temperature change for a percentage change in co2 should be linear.
Co2 molecules compete for the energy and thus it take twice as many co2 molecules to produce the same temperature change. So to produce 1F with X you need 2X co2 to produce the same 1F.
Thus a 30% increase produced approximately 1F change in the last 75 years it means another 30% increase is going to produce another 1F. Not 10F.
In other words the latest NASA political puff piece suggesting 10F change is 2100 is ridiculous and means a 10 times rate of increase in temperatures than we saw in the last 75 years. That’s simply stupid.
Whether we reach 550 or 650 is a difference of maybe 0.3F. In other words spending 20 trillion dollars to get to 550 instead of 650 might mean crushing the 3rd world and other negative economic impacts far exceeding any damages than even their wildly political 10F temperature change they predicted in the latest scare piece by radical environmentalists. 0.3F change won’t change anything for anybody.