Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day on Climate Change


Today is Blog Action Day, an event in which bloggers from around the world all post about the same topic. This year the topic is climate change and Blog Action Day is happening at a very good time, since I've been wanting to write a post about a media campaign that has hit the airwaves lately.

The campaign is not only very misleading, it seems to be based on the classic mistake of thinking that more of a good thing is always better.


The media campaign in question is called CO2 is Green and, as you can see from a quick glance at this organization's website, they question what they call "myths" about carbon dioxide. There is so much incorrect and misleading information on this organization's website that it is hard to know where to start.

Any grade school student who has paid attention in science class can tell you that plants do, indeed, need carbon dioxide to live. Claiming that more of this substance is "good for the earth" would probably get that student held back a grade, though.

Carbon dioxide is necessary for life. No doubt about it. But too much carbon dioxide will hurt us. CO2 retains heat in the atmosphere, so too much of it in our atmosphere will lead to higher global temperatures.

Although this blog is about complex systems, this particular issue is not really all that complex. The role of carbon dioxide in our eco-sysytem provides a classic example of nonlinearity. Low amounts of carbon dioxide are good, but higher amounts are not. This means that there is an optimal amount of carbon dioxide that makes our world function optimally.

A simple sketch will help explain this simple nonlinear phenomenon:

This is a bell curve, which shows how increasing the amount of something can first lead to an increased effect--until the peak is reached--but adding more of that same substance, once the peak is passed, can lead to a decreased effect.

So, there you go: complex science simplified, although something tells me that the real issue driving these CO2 Is Green folks has nothing whatsoever to do with science
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1 comment:

  1. Well phrased and framed! Now pardon me since I'm going to share some rather negative thoughts on the issue. I would treasure your response, even if you totally disagree.

    My difference on this is that the complexity is exactly that. I am certain that since our physical world does not cooperate with our inductive anticipations, we will see a continued drop in people siding with "Global Warming." Fundamentally, I think that is because using "Global Warming" as the touchstone it is bound to fail. It will probably fail, not because it is wrong, but because nature is not likely to cooperate by remaining on course with our projections.

    What else were we to do? We could have chosen to express the "complexity" of our situation, but people would have dropped away quickly. So, no that wouldn't have worked any better. Being the, shall we say, odd creationist/evolutionist that I am I think that we will destroy ourselves but not as God dispassionately sits aside.

    We are fallen, but not as western Christians tend to frame the issue. By striving to make reality over and over in our own images we are repeating the tower of Babel.

    Look at the conflicts arising between conservations and indigenous people working to feed themselves. Next, why are we, the seemingly advanced parts of society, creating the image of stagnating nature this planet? By wanting to keep things as those were we are effectively trying to pretend we are not part of the whole.

    Do you see the circle?

    I think there is no escape from our individually and corporately not being able to see the whole picture. Not seeing that picture puts us on the path of self-destruction.

    By death, we discover life.

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