Sunday, October 01, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth?

According to The Drudge Report:
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore warned hundreds of U.N. diplomats and staff on Thursday evening about the perils of climate change, claiming: Cigarette smoking is a "significant contributor to global warming!"

I used to think that Al was serious about this stuff. Now I think that he's trying to launch a career as a comedian, playing some sort of clueless straight man who says the most idiotic things with perfect seriousness.

While it's true that every cigarette that gets smoked releases a small amount of carbon dioxide (although certainly not enough, even in the aggregate to constitute a "significant" contribution to atmospheric CO2), something that seems to have escaped Mr. Gore's grasp is the fact that those tobacco plants suck CO2 out of the air in the process of making the noxious weed. You can burn all the leaves you want, but the net effect on atmospheric CO2 will be zero, so long as you grow new leaves to replace the ones you burned. Hasn't this guy ever heard of recycling?

Which leads me to another thought about Global Warming and related Environmental nonsense. And that thought concerns the notion that oil is a fossil fuel. Because if it is, we ought to be able to pump all we want out of the ground, burn it all, and just get back to where we were (atmospherically speaking) before all those dinosaurs died. Certainly we couldn't mess things up to the point that the Earth would become inhospitable to life; the most we could do is restore the balance to the point where life began.

But what if oil isn't a product of the decomposition long buried dead stuff? What if the abiotic theory is right and oil is continuously being manufactured deep in the earth through processes unrelated to long dead dinosaurs? That would mean that all the oil we burn really could increase atmospheric CO2 to levels that the Earth has never seen before. For all we know, that could result in a world of heretofore unimagined fecundity where even areas that are now virtually uninhabitable could be transformed into veritable Edens. Or perhaps it might have the opposite effect. We can only speculate.

But the thing about all this that I find amusing is the political alignments. Political Greenies invariable insist that oil is a fossil fuel because that's a necessary part of their Peak Oil theory. We have to do something, and we have to do it NOW because the oil's running out. (Does anyone else remember the commercial that ran during the 1970s "energy crisis" where the kid was walking on the beach talking about how "they say there may not be any oil left at all when I get big"?)

On the other hand, those on the opposite side of the political debate seem to like the abiotic oil theory (partly, I suspect, because it seems more consistent with the empirical data and partly because of the lack of any evidence to support the fossil fuel theory, but mostly because it's politically expedient). But if the abiotic theory is correct, it is at least plausible that we might do some serious damage to the Earth's ability to sustain life by adding all that extra CO2 to the atmosphere. At a minimum, we'd be taking the atmosphere into uncharted territory, and for all we know, uncharted territory could look sort of like Mars or Venus.

Strikes me as amusing, anyway. But I'm easily amused.

Other thoughts on Global Warming can be found here and here and here and here and here.

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Anonymous LuLu said...

Al looks a little puffy (excuse the pun).

Sunday, October 01, 2006 5:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scary this guy was almost president...

Monday, October 09, 2006 7:47:00 PM  

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