Fact check

To the Editor:

Making strong recommendations to avoid wasting energy is certainly an admirable objective, as Lunn Sawyer suggested in these pages last week, but otherwise, he has many of his facts out of place.

Most of the disasters he mentioned are either completely wrong, or the science he used to support his facts doesn’t fit.

Yes, it has been known since 1895 by Arrhenius that a relationship exists between atmospheric CO2 and temperature. In 1896, he calculated the earth’s average temperature was about 15 degrees centigrade and suggested that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would result in a temperature increase of 4-5 degrees. But his initial work was fundamentally flawed, because he considered only a narrow band of the infrared spectrum. His estimation of a 5-degree increase was off by a factor of 10 for a doubling of CO2.

By 1906, he had reworked his calculations and reduced the warming effect to 1.6 degrees. More recent calculations have revised this theoretical temperature downward even further, so that a doubling of CO2 above pre-industrial levels should result in a slightly less than 1 degree centigrade rise, while some calculations suggest as little as 0.5 degrees.

Why is all this important? Because the relationship of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to temperature is logarithmic, not linear, and as CO2 levels are doubled, the temperature increase will be less again. The very first 20 ppm of CO2 provided the major warming CO2 will provide. But atmospheric CO2 is safe well beyond 1,000 ppm. Actually, the Earth’s atmosphere is starved of CO2 because it is well below the optimum level for plant life. Much below the current level of 385-395 ppm, plant life begins to fail.

The second major concern seems to be sea level rise from polar ice melt. Well, the latest data shows, (from some 88 million measurements from the European Cryosat satellite), that the northern ice-cap increased by 41 percent in 2013. That’s a bit more than “some ice returned.” Last week it was reported that heavy ice this year in Hudson Bay derailed an arctic exhibition out of British Columbia to study global warming-caused ocean acidification.

And the Antarctic concerns are for a very small area which seems to be getting heat from what are likely volcanic sources, while the ice/snow in the rest of the region is growing significantly.

We have had increasing sea levels since the time of the little ice age, but the data shows an increase of 0.07 inches per year, or 7 inches in 100 years! Variation exists, but is basically local change, and highly variable worldwide, depending on the differing rates at which land is uplifting or subsiding.

The earth hasn’t been warming for the last 18 years. Even the discredited U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is predicting only three feet by the end of the century. So, I don’t expect reality to be a problem.

What we really need is cheap energy by the most efficient means possible to help the world’s economy and the poor. If that means burning fossil fuels and producing more CO2, then let’s have at it. More CO2 will help feed the world, and cheap energy will bring growth to third world nations. And maybe Maine too. Watching your energy costs increase? How much new industry has Maine brought in with its current power costs? Fight back against these latest emission standards from the White House.

Tom Rolfes



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