Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Does small equal unimportant or small?

Slide 11 in Merchant's presentation
Small = Unimportant
  • Proposition: Because CO2 is less than 0.05% of the atmosphere, we shouldn't believe it is important
  • Strychnine in the human body at 0.05% concentrations can be fatal
No, small equals less important than large. To improve the analogy, if I wiped cyanide on someone's clothes and someone else gave them a salad with a cup of cyanide in it, it is unlikely my contribution significantly lead to his death, as alone it may have made him slightly sick. Another example would be someone poisoning themselves with carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes while smoking cigarettes; the amount of CO gained while smoking is not enough to kill anyone but the amount in car exhaust is. For someone who, in his presentation, has concentrated on logical fallacies, this is unacceptable misrepresentation.

Opponents of the global warming agenda acknowledge that atmospheric CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Slide 12
CO2 insignificant
  • Proposition:
    • Human emissions of CO2 ~ 2% of the natural sources
    • This is technically accurate
  • Inference we are meant to draw:
    • Our CO2 emissions can't matter
  • Fallacy:
    • Ignores natural sinks that absorb all the natural emissions (and half the extra human emissions)
  • Ignores cumulative effect of small imbalance: CO2 has risen from ~280 to ~380 ppmv
The program is not saying that the amount of human produced CO2 is intrinsically small so it unimportant, they are saying that the human contribution is a small part of a small part. More importantly I would add that our contribution is smaller than the natural variation! If what we are putting into the atmosphere is less than the natural variation from year to year how can one say that the man-made is to blame and not the natural. The CO2 produced by us or "naturally" is the same chemical.

Why can't natural sinks take up human produced CO2? It is not like they can tell the difference.

The program does not deny that CO2 levels are rising (as Merchant implies), just the cause. He makes the mistake that he knows the cause of the increase, but that is what the debate is about: correlation does not imply causation.

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