carbon dioxide and the rice video

This video, called the rice video, downplays the importance of carbon dioxide emissions in the climate change debate. The goal of the speaker is to convince you that the contribution of anthropogenic greenhouse gases is so small that is cannot be making any significant impact.
I call foul but I don’t know why. I teach this stuff and would like to show it in my classes but I need proper info to refute it.
Please watch it if you haven’t seen it.

We know how much carbon dioxide we’re producing, and we know how much the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, and those two numbers match. And we also know how much effect that increase in carbon dioxide would have on temperatures, and what the actual change of temperature is, and those numbers match, too. Which part of this is the video disputing?

I couldn’t be bothered to watch the whole thing. He starts by using rice grains to visualize the amount of CO2 compared to all gases in the atmosphere, and the amount added by humans annually? In total? The comparison moves from apples to oranges around there somewhere and then he moves on to the trite “CO2 is necessary for life therefore no global warming”-gambit. I ragequit at that point.

Use the ice core data … this shows quite clearly that natural CO[sub]2[/sub] levels fluctuate between 180 ppmv and 280 ppmv … however current levels are at 400 ppmv … so there’s the extra 120 ppmv that is from burning fossil fuels …

I believe the isotope studies confirm this … the 280 ppmv of natural CO[sub]2[/sub] has been subject to cosmic ray bombardment … whereas the 120 ppmv extra CO[sub]2[/sub] has not, as though it’s been buried underground these past 100 million years …

ETA: Maybe point out this Malcolm Roberts fella holds a Master’s of Business Administration …

The guy is a complete fucking idiot with zero knowledge of the science. The percentage of CO2 compared to the rest of the atmosphere is irrelevant. It’s like saying taking cyanide can’t possibly harm you because it would be such a small percentage of your body weight. It’s the relative increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere compared to what was there before that’s important, not the amount relative to other gases.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin. He draws a simplistic analogy based on no science at all, and then proceeds to deny things that have been well established by scientific research for decades.

It’s not clear to me why you find this in any way convincing. It’s just a politician blathering on and making excuses about not having to pay taxes to confront a critical issue.

Point out that this fella’s from Australia … having spent his entire life watching his bathtub drain down clockwise screws up his perception of reality …

But that’s only going back hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps a million years. Go back to the Miocene and 400 ppmv was normal; in the Oligocene and Eocene figures were higher still, peaking at over 1200 ppmv. So you can’t say that CO2 levels are abnormal.

What you can say is that CO2 levels have measurably increased in the recent past. You can also say that there appears to be a strong correlation between the increase in atmospheric CO2 and fossil carbon usage as evidenced by this graph.

Specifically, when he says humans account for only 3% of CO2 production - that may be accurate but misleading and meaningless. If you look at all sources CO2 production, then natural sources (plants, animals, ocean, etc) make up most of it. But these are part of a carbon cycle. They remove CO2 from the atmosphere and later emit it back into the atmosphere.

Fossil fuels aren’t part of the cycle. It’s new CO2 that is being added to the cycle. So this video is wrong to say only 3% of the CO2 in the atmosphere now come from human activity.

Most of the video has nothing to do with science, so it can’t be refuted with science.

The one scientific claim is true, but misleading. CO[sub]2[/sub] due to man’s activities is only a small part of the annual injection into the atmosphere (though according to Wikipedia, somewhat more than 1 part in 33). However most of the CO[sub]2[/sub] comes from biologic processes, e.g. animal respiration, and is in rough balance with the biologic consumption of atmospheric CO[sub]2[/sub], e.g. by photosynthesis. Thus man’s activities tip the annual flow out of its equilibrium.

If you look at accumulated CO[sub]2[/sub], since that is what matters for greenhouse warming (rather than annual flow), the numbers are more frightening. For most of the Pleistocene Epoch, CO[sub]2[/sub] level fluctuated between 180 ppm and 280 ppm. Now it is a whopping 400 ppm and still rising fast.

At the end of the video he commits the Oshkosh fallacy, or whatever it’s called. (Except he uses Australia instead of Oshkosh.) Since the total income taxes paid by citiznes of Oshkosh are too tiny to affect the federal budget, Oshkosh should be exempt from taxes! :smack:

If the Mississippi River is rising steadily at an inch per year, that may be small relative to the total flow, but if the trend continues pretty soon New Orleans is going to be permanently under water.

I like watching video like these even if I disagree with them. It is important that we understand what the general public is exposed to so the we can counter with valid arguments. It is not enough for me to show this to my students and say that it is just BS. I need to be able to refute claims stated in the video using the science they learned in class.
Thanks for your comments. Awesome as always.

Yes, I agree that just the ice core data has it’s weaknesses … and that’s why I included the isotope data … here we have two independent lines of scientific thought leading to the exact same conclusion … the two together makes a compelling case for man-kind’s contribution to the current CO[sub]2[/sub] levels …

The weird part here is that climate change would bring tropical rainfall further into the Australian desert lands … perhaps enough to bring much of that wastelands into agricultural production … shows you what MBA’s know of radiative energy transfer …

When CO[sub]2[/sub] levels were much higher the temperatures were much higher also. The high temperatures of the Eocene weren’t “abnormal” for Eocene fauna, but I think human interest centers not on extinct Eocene fauna, but on Holocene fauna like Homo sapiens.

The other fallacy is somehow suggesting that CO2 cannot have a major effect because it’s such a small fraction of the atmosphere. That’s like saying “drink this water, it only has 0.01% cyanide.”

CO2 has a major role because it absorbs infrared radiation in wavelength bands where water is transparent. See this figure (figure 7 from this article). You can see the atmosphere’s infrared absorption is dominated by water, and a big chunk of its “window” is blocked by CO2. So if we close that window by a further 30%, it makes a big difference.

Correct. We’re releasing CO2 that was sequestered millions of years before humans existed. So, it’s “normal” in some sense on a global 4 Billion year scale. Very, very abnormal for our species, however. Unlike those mosquitoes with a six-foot wingspan, we did not evolve to survive in the Carboniferous Era.

As others have said, the first thing to point out is that the guy is not using science to make his arguments. He’s using fallacious intuitive analogies, not scientific ideas. It’s not a scientific principle that small changes can’t have big effects; in fact, quite the reverse. Some examples have already been given here; you should easily be able to come up with others.

FTR, that’s not a correct description of what the isotope data tells us.

Cosmic ray bombardment (of atmospheric nitrogen-14) is responsible for creating trace amounts of the radioactive [sup]14[/sup]C isotope. Since this isotope decays over time, it’s the key mechanism used for carbon dating of organic materials. The isotopic signature of anthropogenic CO2 is an entirely different matter and has nothing to do with [sup]14[/sup]C.

It’s based on the fact that organic matter, including the fossil fuels that they eventually form, have a stronger affinity for the [sup]12[/sup]C isotope than for [sup]13[/sup]C, so the [sup]13[/sup]C/[sup]12[/sup]C ratio fixed in those materials is lower than it is in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels not only releases a known amount of net additional CO2 outside of the natural carbon cycle, it also releases CO2 with a correspondingly lower [sup]13[/sup]C/[sup]12[/sup]C ratio, and we can measure these effects. More detail here.

So not only have we broken the fairly regular 180-280ppm CO2 cycle that has characterized transitions between the ice ages for more than a million years, and driven it up to 400 ppm and rising, but we’ve done it with stunning, unnatural rapidity, mostly in just the last hundred years. And there are multiple lines of evidence for this net new carbon being from anthropogenic sources. The cite in the OP sounds like a complete fraud. The argument that there’s “not very much CO2 in the atmosphere anyway” is the kind of low-grade totally anti-science mendacity that even most of the denialists have given up trying to peddle. The radiative transfer properties of CO2 are well known and not in dispute.

Yes, and back then there were no continental glaciers at all. No Antarctic ice sheet, no Greenland ice sheet.

So if we return the Eocene levels of CO2, we’re also going to return to a climate where there are no continental ice sheets, which means that water gets dumped into the oceans. Which means a sea level rise of 200 feet.

That’s not such a big deal, on a global scale. Very little land is going to be covered. But the problem is that, guess what, we have hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure sitting well below 200 feet above our current sea level. Cities, you know? Like, say, London? New York? Hong Kong? Miami? The entire state of Florida? The entire country of Bangladesh? The Netherlands? Denmark?

Yes, humanity would survive. But how much would you pay to keep London from being destroyed? Are you going to invite all those Londoners and Danes and Dutch to come live with you?

That’s the stuff I’m talking about, thanks for all those links … looks to completely confirm the assertion from the ice core data that 280 ppmv is the highest natural level these past half million years … the rest is of man …

I laughed when the fells said “one atom in 6,000,000” … that might be a big number for an MBA … but we typically deal with numbers of atoms in 600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chunks … one gram of hydrogen …

But yeah … wrong answer to the wrong question … that makes him not even wrong …

Does the rising CO[sub]2[/sub] level make Colibri’s posts echo? :slight_smile: