Facts about carbon dioxide

I would like to take a moment to respond to some of the misconceptions and fallacies of a recent letter by Roger von Dach.

As Roger says regarding arguments for and against the carbon tax, he doesn’t know much about it either. This shows in his letter through the many inaccuracies.

Insults towards Catherine McKenna aside, the reason we have elected representatives is to have people who can look at evidence and draft evidence-driven policy on matters that many citizens are not knowledgeable about. Unlike ourselves, these representatives have aides, the counsel of experts, and access to research and studies which enable them to be as informed as possible.

Carbon dioxide is important to plants, however this does not mean that more carbon dioxide is more beneficial. Just as we breathe oxygen, a higher oxygen environment can actually be damaging to our lungs. We evolved to live in the Earth’s current atmosphere, along with all other plants and animals, few of which existed during times when atmospheric conditions were different.

Most of these evolutionary adaptations occurred over prolonged periods, giving opportunity to adjust to new conditions. Changes to our atmosphere are occurring at rates unprecedented in Earth’s history outside of mass extinction events. 

The earth has a natural carbon cycle. This includes CO2 emitted from volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, and CO2 produced by life on the planet. The earth also processes carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere. This is traditionally a balanced cycle, however since industrialization, humans have upset this balance, releasing far more CO2 into the atmosphere than the Earth’s natural cycles are able to accommodate.

According to the US Geological Survey, the world’s volcanoes generate about 200 million tons of CO2 annually. This contrasts to vehicle emissions alone, which generate roughly 24 billion tons. 

The chemistry of CO2 has been well understood by scientists for over 100 years, as carbon is used extensively in organic chemistry. Fields including biology, medicine, energy all require an intimate understanding of how carbon dioxide functions, and that is why there are research papers dating back as far as 1896 “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Earth.”

The term “global warming” was not used until a 1975 Science article titled “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming.” This term though was not popularized until much later. Meanwhile climate change continued to be prominently referred to as such. Examples including the IPCC or “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” founded in 1988 as well as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s 1989 address to the Conservative Party, which highlighted the threat of climate change.

Much of today's misinformation is driven by those whose profits could fall as a result of evidence-driven policy.

Matt Phillips, Kelowna

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