Monday, June 1, 2015


The biggest issue of our lifetime has been on the table for a long time. It is irreversible “climate change” induced by human activity. Humankind has accumulated a systematically organized body of knowledge on this subject. We have moved from believing we had the entire world as a gigantic sponge that would absorb all our misdeeds to now definitively knowing this is not true. We can and do alter “nature”. However, even in the face of this looming crisis, we seem not to be able to get it scientifically correct. By far, most media attention is on increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is certainly a big part of the problem. However, people like me, who condemn fossil fuels, tend to blame all of our atmospheric problems on carbon dioxide emissions, which is not scientifically correct. If we want science deniers to believe us, we have to get the science right because we are facing the power of money; huge piles of money that industry uses to feed on raw ignorance and consequently buy public opinion, which in a democracy buys political power. Although much more complex than two issues people commonly conflate just two of the big issues blaming both on carbon dioxide emissions. The two issues are global warming and acid rain. There is no doubt that miniscule increase carbon dioxide partial pressure has increased capturing and holding of the sun's energy. Carbon dioxide plays a bigger part than do some other greenhouse gasses play. The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is report to be 43% since the beginning of the industrial age. This figure is deceiving because carbon dioxide is a trace gas and which means there is very little to start with; therefore, a 43% increase sounds dramatic but does not amount to very much change until we consider the entire enormity of the earth’s atmosphere. Scientists report the increase as the percentage precisely because it is more dramatic than reporting the actual amount. The increase in global warming is destructive in as much as it is causing a measurable shift in our environment just as the headlines say. Increased surface temperature of the earth results in visible changes in polar ice caps, an increase in ocean debts, etc. Although less visible perhaps more important, dramatic changes are taking place in flora and fauna. Acid rain is the other issue. Even though the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is great, carbon dioxide contributes very little to the formation of acid rain. Acid rain is the result of other acidifying chemicals. The forerunners of acid rain are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which arise from natural sources such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, but primarily fossil fuel combustion associated with human activity. There is a problem explaining this. The actual increased in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as it is with carbon dioxide, are miniscule, yet the effect is much more significant. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides combine with water to form strong acids with carbon dioxide forming carbonic acid, which is a weak acid. It seems few people realize how little free hydrogen exists, or realize the relative enormity of the hydrogen sink. With a strong acid, the entire proton complement dissociates while with a weak acid, only a very, very small part dissociates into active free hydrogen ion; however, the amount freed makes a much greater contribution to entirety of the amount of available free hydrogen. To explain the significance of this, if I take a liter of pure water and dissolve all the carbon dioxide I can physically dissolve in it at normal temperatures, the pH will hover around about 6.8. In contrast, by adding one drop of sulfuric acid to that entire liter of water, I would add about 20,000 times more hydrogen ions than I added with the carbon dioxide to that liter. The pH would plummet. One liter of water with one drop of sulfur acid will dissolve marble statues or limestone buildings while water saturated with carbon dioxide will corrode but not do near as much damage. Carbon dioxide causes global warming, which is destructive in one way; thus, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are destructive in another way. Those arguing about shale oil seldom mention the high sulfur content of that oil, but it is high and is destructive of to the environment; therefore, I say to my dollar oriented Canadian friends, keep your damn oil in the ground. We should do everything we can do to see that happens but, of course, we should try to promote renewable energy and keep all fossil fuels in the ground. URL: Comments Invited and not moderated

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