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Question regarding greenhouse gases

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I have a few questions that relate to the whole topic of global warming/climate change theories. Please note that I am not looking for political answers, just scientific fact (that's why I'm here after all). Also I wasn't too sure where to post this thread (It is a chemistry question, but it involves climatology and biology as well).

 

Currently the most widely accepted theory on global warming is that greenhouse gases (primarily CO2) are a major influence. Through biology we know that vegetation converts CO2 into O2.

  1. Is there any place on Earth where the CO2 concentration is higher, or where the stuff collects?
  2. Have there been any experiments or attempts to synthesize the process of converting CO2 into O2?
  3. Theoretically, assuming there was a way to convert CO2 into O2 on a mass scale, would it help to reverse the process of global warming, primarily in there are places on the planet where CO2 concentration is the highest?

I am aware that my questions may be based more on ignorance than anything else (I'm a computer scientist myself...not so good at non-computer science :) ) If there are flaws in my way of thinking, please feel free to let me know. Like most of us here I am seeking objective answers to such things.

 

Thank You

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Is there any place on Earth where the CO2 concentration is higher, or where the stuff collects?

 

Depends on if you count certain rocks as higher concentration of CO2, and of course lots dissolves in the ocean.

 

Have there been any experiments or attempts to synthesize the process of converting CO2 into O2?

 

Not too hard to do; however, it would make no sense to do this while we are still burning coal for power. Perhaps we would be better off using cheap, disposable, self-replicating solar power units to do this ;)

 

Theoretically, assuming there was a way to convert CO2 into O2 on a mass scale, would it help to reverse the process of global warming, primarily in there are places on the planet where CO2 concentration is the highest?

 

Yes, if you could do it fast enough to reduce the CO2 concentration. The best methods I have heard of might be putting iron into the ocean dead areas to stimulate algal blooms and using vegetable matter to extract burnable gases then burying the charcoal.

 

Since the concentration of CO2 is absolutely tiny compared to that of oxygen, it wouldn't hurt to just get rid of the CO2 rather than convert it into oxygen. Various suggestions have been made, such as putting it in old oil wells, or in the depths of the ocean. If placed into the ocean, it would be gone for hundreds of years, which should give us time to figure out a better solution.

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Depends on if you count certain rocks as higher concentration of CO2, and of course lots dissolves in the ocean.
Ah yes, I should have clarified. What I should have asked is this: are there places on Earth where the atmosphere has a higher concentration of CO2? For example chloroflorocarbons tend to congregate at the polar regions. Is there something similar to this that occurs with CO2?

 

...however, it would make no sense to do this while we are still burning coal for power.
Very valid point. Thank you for bringing that up. That leads me to another question related to global warming.

 

Again the current widely accepted theory on global warming is that the highest emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases comes from the burning of fossil fuels. However don't fuels like ethanol and biodiesal also emit CO2?

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Again the current widely accepted theory on global warming is that the highest emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases comes from the burning of fossil fuels. However don't fuels like ethanol and biodiesal also emit CO2?

 

Yes, but growing them also absorbs CO2. Fossil fuels represent carbon that has been stored in the ground for a long time. Renewable crops cycle what already in the system.

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But the current average increase in global climate is directly linked with human CO2 emissions.

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But the current average increase in global climate is directly linked with human CO2 emissions.

 

First, I don't know what increase in global climate means.

 

Could you explain to me how you can experience more climate.

 

And secondly, that is an incorrect statement to begin with.

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First, I don't know what increase in global climate means.

 

Could you explain to me how you can experience more climate.

 

And secondly, that is an incorrect statement to begin with.

 

 

I meant increase in average global temperature. Taken in context of my other posts on SFN around the issue of global climate change, I would take that as understood. But, it did make little sense as originally presented here in this specific thread, so thanks for pointing that out so I could clarify.

 

But... you stated that it's not even correct. So, did you mean how I worded it, or that the increase in average global temperature is NOT directly linked the human CO2 contributions to the atmosphere?

 

 

Thanks in advance for your reciprocation of clarification.

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To the original questions.

1. Any place CO2 accumulates. Yes. But only temporarily. In the longer term it disperses. Volcanic action leads to temporary local concentrations, as does emission from certain lakes, even to the extent of wholesale mortality to local people when the CO2 'burps' out.

 

2. Turning CO2 to O2. Can be done, but it is an energy absorbing process. Thus, energy has to be consumed. Since most man-made CO2 production occurs in order to release energy, the reverse is kind of unlikely. Of course, green plants do the CO2 to O2 thing all the time.

 

Another small point. CFC's do NOT accumulate over the poles. They just have a stronger ozone depleting effect there.

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But... you stated that it's not even correct. So, did you mean how I worded it, or that the increase in average global temperature is NOT directly linked the human CO2 contributions to the atmosphere?

 

 

Thanks in advance for your reciprocation of clarification.

 

It is incorrect to assert that current global temperature increases are a direct result of human emitted CO2.

 

The dynamic is far too complex than to simple state that only CO2 emitted by humans causes the increased warming.

 

Evident by data from past centuries CO2 fluctuations have always occurred, even prior to the industrial age. Therefore, it is only logical that natural CO2 emissions are not constant.

 

As far as can be determined human emitted CO2 DOES add greenhouse gases and thus increase warming potential. Asserting however that only human emitted CO2 is the cause or that the warming is DIRECTLY a result of human produced CO2 is wrong.

 

Before this gets too long and turns into a huge tangent from the OP's intent, my biggest complaints about the majority of the "environmental" crowd and folks that back silly things like the Kyoto protocol is the misstatement of facts to "scare" people.

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The dynamic is far too complex than to simple state that only CO2 emitted by humans causes the increased warming.

Good thing I didn't say that then.

 

Evident by data from past centuries CO2 fluctuations have always occurred, even prior to the industrial age. Therefore, it is only logical that natural CO2 emissions are not constant.

I agree. Good thing I did not claim they were not.

 

 

As far as can be determined human emitted CO2 DOES add greenhouse gases and thus increase warming potential.

It's important to realize that this potential is realized. I am starting to get the sense that your problem was with my use of the word "direct."

 

Or... am I giving you too much credit? Are you a denier of the fact that human contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere are resulting in higher average global temperatures... Yes/No?

 

 

Asserting however that only human emitted CO2 is the cause or that the warming is DIRECTLY a result of human produced CO2 is wrong.

Let's just get this straight. This is exactly what I said, in response to your post, that's resulted in this:

 

GW is not primarily due to CO2.

 

GW is primarily due to water vapor.
But the current average increase in global climate is directly linked with human CO
2
emissions.

 

 

Before this gets too long and turns into a huge tangent from the OP's intent, my biggest complaints about the majority of the "environmental" crowd and folks that back silly things like the Kyoto protocol is the misstatement of facts to "scare" people.

 

I don't care what the politics are. I don't care how people use the data to scare people. I don't care that Kyoto is not the best solution.

 

The data is there. The data is consistent. The data shows that our activities are causing an increase in average global temperature. The data shows that these temperature increases will have cascading effects. That is what I care about. Those effects, and our ability to mitigate the risk posed by them if we act now collectively to do so.

 

So, if a few scare tactics is what it takes to get people to get their head's out of their asses and make some changes, then as far as I'm concerned, it's worth it.

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I am starting to get the sense that your problem was with my use of the word "direct."

 

Correct.

 

Are you a denier of the fact that human contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere are resulting in higher average global temperatures... Yes/No?

 

No, CO2 emitted by humans does effect global temperature as I posted previously.

 

The amount due to human emitted CO2 and the amount that is natural is what is important. Further, the correlation between increase in CO2 and increase in temperature is even MORE important. It isn't 1 to 1, not even close.

 

 

The data is there. The data is consistent. The data shows that our activities are causing an increase in average global temperature. The data shows that these temperature increases will have cascading effects. That is what I care about. Those effects, and our ability to mitigate the risk posed by them if we act now collectively to do so.

 

Over the past century we have had temperature increases in line with prior century temperature increases before the industrial age, even though we do currently have higher CO2 concentrations.

 

It is frustrating that groups with agenda's other than that of the environment focus on CO2 concentrations plots as opposed to temperature increase plots. Again, they are not 1 to 1, thus why it is misleading, and intentionally so.

 

So, if a few scare tactics is what it takes to get people to get their head's out of their asses and make some changes, then as far as I'm concerned, it's worth it.

 

And that is the mentality that too me is bad yet common among "environmentalist".

 

You basically are suggesting that lying to people so that they agree to do something that has the potential for benefits is ok.

 

First, the potential benefits are too the environment, at the expense of the economy. So you have both advantages and disadvantages by "tricking" people into doing what one group wants for monetary reasons.

 

Secondly, the point of science isn't to manipulate and corral society at your whim which is precisely what the mentality is for lying and misleading people with GW data.

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Over the past century we have had temperature increases in line with prior century temperature increases before the industrial age, even though we do currently have higher CO2 concentrations.

Can you support this claim? I'd like to read more about it.

 

 

You basically are suggesting that lying to people so that they agree to do something that has the potential for benefits is ok.

Oh dear... If that's how I've come across, then I am desperately incapable of conveying my thoughts adequately. I am NOT okay with lying to people to get them to agree. I AM okay with scaring people to motivate some action, especially if that action is for the collective well-being.

 

 

First, the potential benefits are too the environment, at the expense of the economy.

This is a false statement. One, it suggests that humans are somehow detached from the environment, and that impact to the environment will not have an impact on us our our likelihood of survival. Two, the research, new technology, and new business that deals specifically with the issue of global climate change (and our ability to mitigate that risk) has a huge impact on the economy. In short, new business and new opportunity equals good for economy. The company I work for is a prime example, as we have recently gone into the solar market and seen huge gains and contracts as a result.

 

 

So you have both advantages and disadvantages by "tricking" people into doing what one group wants for monetary reasons.

Can you demonstrate adequately that the presentations made to the public regarding the effect of CO2 on climate and the significant contributions of CO2 that we make to the atmosphere are not accurate? If you cannot, then how can you say that sharing this data is being used to "trick" people?

 

 

Secondly, the point of science isn't to manipulate and corral society at your whim which is precisely what the mentality is for lying and misleading people with GW data.

 

I agree. Science is a method of acquiring knowledge. The knowledge we've acquired has shown that we are causing increases in average global temperatures by our contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere. These contributions have many outcomes that are detrimental to our survival and the survival of other life.

 

The issue now is if we use that data like responsible global citizens, sharing the importance of the data and the importance of change in our current behavior, sharing what we can to see that change implemented... or, if we just ignore it.

 

Science steps out of the equation once the data is in. Humanity then takes over, and we need to act on that data as compassionate beings who care for the well-being of others. If that's too "touchy feeley" for you, and you need something a bit more specific to your self-interest, then we need to change so we don't kill the base of the food chain and our ability to successfully farm crops... which would, itself, lead to the killing of ourselves.

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Can you support this claim? I'd like to read more about it.

Google historical global temperature or something similar.

 

In the past century we have warmed about 1 degree on average. Look at the historical ups and down swings in temperature.

 

Oh dear... If that's how I've come across, then I am desperately incapable of conveying my thoughts adequately. I am NOT okay with lying to people to get them to agree. I AM okay with scaring people to motivate some action, especially if that action is for the collective well-being.

Ah, so scaring through dramatization and exaggeration is ok, but not lying.

 

 

This is a false statement. One, it suggests that humans are somehow detached from the environment, and that impact to the environment will not have an impact on us our our likelihood of survival.

Right, I'm sure the kyoto protocol would not have had any negative effects on our economy.

 

Further, here is another example of my previous point.

 

"our likelihood of survival."

 

Again with the dramatization and exaggeration.

 

We have seen temperatures increase 1 degree in a century and now we are all going to die...... ok.

 

 

 

If you cannot, then how can you say that sharing this data is being used to "trick" people?

I've watched gore's pathetic "documentary" have you? If you have you truly aren't going to deny the use of dramatization and exaggeration he utilized to "scare" people.

 

I agree. Science is a method of acquiring knowledge. The knowledge we've acquired has shown that we are causing increases in average global temperatures by our contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere. These contributions have many outcomes that are detrimental to our survival and the survival of other life.

 

Everything was good, until "detrimental to our survival...."

 

Again with the exaggeration!!! There have been FAR bigger temperature swings historical (you know ice ages and stuff) than the 1 degree swing we have had over the past century.

 

 

 

If that's too "touchy feeley" for you, then we need to do it so we don't kill the base of the food chain and hence ourselves.

I feel like a broken record but again....the dramatization and exaggeration that "you guys" just can't do without when it comes to "scaring" or convincing everyone that we are "destroying" the world.

 

It is apparently way too much to ask that the facts be explained that yep, humans have helped speed up the natural temperature fluctuations without doomsday prophecy.....

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Google historical global temperature or something similar.

 

You made the claim. Give an exact reference to support it. Telling me to google it is not sufficient.

 

 

I'm going to ignore the rest, because most of it is just trying to bait me and is not relevant to the topic.

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theCPE,

 

For one thing, water vapor has nothing to do with the increase of global temperature. It is a feedback, not a forcing agent in the climate system (so one could say it has contributed to a bit of the warming but indirectly from anthropogenic anyway). A reading of Kump (2002) in Nature would clear up your confusion on its role. Secondly, CO2 is the primary driver of climate change from about 1950 to present. This is said with high confidence from lack of solar and cosmic-ray trends, heat going in the ocean not going out, the stratosphere cooling, the energy imbalance at the top-of-atmosphere, etc CO2 is not 100% of the warming, but most of it is CO2, and anthropogenic dominates the temperature rise in the second half of the century.

 

figure-spm-2-p4.jpg

 

Note Water Vapor doesn't appear on the graph because it is not a climate forcing agent. Secondly, there is no "zero point" to which climate always returns, so the statement "Over the past century we have had temperature increases in line with prior century temperature increases before the industrial age" is indefensible, unless I am really reading this wrong. Temperatures have been stable since the last ice age (not going outside of a +/- 1 degree change) and are now highest (probably) since 120,000 years ago, and will be hotter by 2100 than if we go back millions of years. You don't seem to understand the significance of "one degree" from a climatology perspective. Mark Lynas' book "Six Degrees" would be a good read for this, but 1-2 degrees is significant but not drastic- some benefits, some harm at first. Agiruclture may flourish in some places, more heat waves and droughts in others. 2 C is getting pretty severe, and will have a lot of harmful impacts. Most scientists say 2 C is the thereshold for "dangerous." 3-4 C will cause mass hardships for countless people and ecosystems, lots of extinctions, severe impacts. Past 4-5 C you are almost in an uncrecognizable world from today. For perspective, if you lower the temperature about 3.5 to 4 C, you have an ice age.

 

 

As for the OP, I'm not sure if you mean "CO2 on Earth" or "CO2 in the atmosphere." The Earth has about as much CO2 as Venus, the only difference being that on Venus most of it is up in the atmosphere, wheras on Earth it is locked up in the ground with (relatively) little in the atmosphere- just enough to keep us from freezing over :) So, much different in terms of the greenhouse power. If you're referring to in the atmosphere, CO2 is pretty well-mixed so you will get about the same reading of atmospheric CO2 concentration if you take measurements in Antarctica, Hawaii, or any other place (so if you're wondering if there is an "ideal" place to take measurements of atmospheric concentration, or if it builds up in some places vs. others, the answer is no). I am assuming you were speaking of "CO2 in the atmosphere" from your Q 2 and 3.

 

I don't have expertise in the current technologies emerging, and I have heard of ideas to "take away" CO2 from the atmosphere. (Maybe return it back to pre-industrial conditions). They remain ideas for now at best, and I can think of theoretical problems in changing the composition of the atmosphere back at a faster rate than we already did. Climate isn't just something that you bounce back and forth from state 1 to state 2, and have a linear response from initial to final to initial conditions. For example, in the non-linear world of sea ice if the Arctic were to melt more (or totally), if you returned the climate back to pre-industrial conditions it would still be lost, and it would take a much colder climate and millenia to get it back. Of course, if you did stop CO2 emissions the warming trend would stop after a while (not immeditately, because of the lag time between forcing and response). Probably would be more immediate if "removed" the CO2 because it is no longer absorbing infrared radiation (which is the problem).

 

I can say with good confidence the idea is not being worked out now, and is not really on lists for a top 3 "stop global warming" solution. More like what you hear about- reduce fossil fuel emissions, altenative energies, capture and storage, cap and trade, all the good stuff

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Chris said

 

Secondly, CO2 is the primary driver of climate change from about 1950 to present.

 

This is a misleading statement. From 1950 to 1966 the world was cooling. From 1960 to 1976 the overall temperatures did not change much (a little up and down). Only since 1976 has there been significant temperature rise. Thus CO2 has caused significant climate change only since 1976.

 

Could you give me a date for your graph? In other words, what time period does it refer to?

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This is a misleading statement. From 1950 to 1966 the world was cooling. From 1960 to 1976 the overall temperatures did not change much (a little up and down). Only since 1976 has there been significant temperature rise. Thus CO2 has caused significant climate change only since 1976.

 

Could you give me a date for your graph? In other words, what time period does it refer to?

 

It came from here:

 

http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_Ch02.pdf

 

 

Your question is explained in the caption for that chart, which I've included below (as well as the referenced tables):

 

 

Figure 2.20. (A) Global mean RFs from the agents and mechanisms discussed in this chapter, grouped by agent type. Anthropogenic RFs and the natural direct solar RF are shown. The plotted RF values correspond to the bold values in Table 2.12. Columns indicate other characteristics of the RF; efficacies are not used to modify the RFs shown.

 

Time scales represent the length of time that a given RF term would persist in the atmosphere after the associated emissions and changes ceased. No CO2 time scale is given, as its removal from the atmosphere involves a range of processes that can span long time scales, and thus cannot be expressed accurately with a narrow range of lifetime values. The scientific understanding shown for each term is described in Table 2.11.

 

 

[ATTACH]1668[/ATTACH]

[ATTACH]1669[/ATTACH]

 

 

 

[ATTACH]1667[/ATTACH]

 

 

If I've read it correctly, the original work for the graph about which you inquired was from the following citation:

 

Haywood, J.M., and O. Boucher, 2000: Estimates of the direct and indirect
radiative forcing due to tropospheric aerosols: A review. Rev. Geophys.,
38, 513–543.

 

 

...the original printing of which is available at the following:

 

http://www.agu.org/journals/rg/rg0004/1999RG000078/pdf/1999RG000078.pdf

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Chris said

 

Secondly, CO2 is the primary driver of climate change from about 1950 to present.

 

This is a misleading statement. From 1950 to 1966 the world was cooling. From 1960 to 1976 the overall temperatures did not change much (a little up and down). Only since 1976 has there been significant temperature rise. Thus CO2 has caused significant climate change only since 1976.

.

 

This is also misleading because the statements are not equivalent. Other factors contributed to the relative stasis of temperature in that time frame, but that does not mean that CO2 wasn't the largest forcing (primary driver, largest contributor, or however you want to say it). Temperature change is due to multiple contributions that have both heating and cooling effects. The size of the forcing and the size of the temperature change at any given time will not, in general, match, because of the other contributions.

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You made the claim. Give an exact reference to support it. Telling me to google it is not sufficient.

 

It isn't too difficult to look it up yourself but ok.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

 

There are plenty of historical graphs for both CO2 and temperature there. Note, for the references please see the bottom of the page as the IPCC is listed several times since that is the holy grail for environmentalist I'm sure that is necessary or the data is just make-believe.

 

Further the first paragraph of the link explains the 100 year warming trend we have had 1.33 +- .32 degrees.

 

The main "idea" to take away from the articles is that the CO2 concentration plots DO NOT follow the temperature trends, which is my point.

 

I'm going to ignore the rest, because most of it is just trying to bait me and is not relevant to the topic.

Right.

 

theCPE,

For one thing, water vapor has nothing to do with the increase of global temperature. It is a feedback, not a forcing agent in the climate system (so one could say it has contributed to a bit of the warming but indirectly from anthropogenic anyway).

Ok, before things get too off tilt:

 

I didn't say water vapor was causing the INCREASE in global temperature. I said it is the MAJORITY contributor to GW. Something I have noticed is that the definition of GW is different for some people. GW is the process by which a planet/celestial body is warmed due to the atmosphere. The "natural" fluctuation of our planets temperature is DUE mostly too how much water vapor is in the atmosphere, however YES the current additional average temperature isn't due to water vapor but other extra greenhouse gases such as CO2. Of course, increases in water vapor in the atmosphere can add to increased average temperature as well (the feedback you are referring too).

 

In summary, i'm not saying water vapor is why we have experienced a 1 degree temperature increase the past century. I'm saying that the greenhouse gas that is most abundant and facilitates GW the most is water vapor. After all GW is a natural process.

 

 

 

Secondly, there is no "zero point" to which climate always returns, so the statement "Over the past century we have had temperature increases in line with prior century temperature increases before the industrial age" is indefensible, unless I am really reading this wrong.

 

Perhaps you are reading it wrong. I'll attempt to rephrase.

 

Without the existence of humans the planet earth would not have a flat line average global temperature over time correct?

 

My point was that the natural fluctuation that earth experienced before industrialization had a specific magnitude (imagine a sine wave). The past century warming that has occurred if plotted would closely fit the trends over time.

 

Unlike of course if you observe the natural CO2 fluctuations and current increases. The only point I have been trying to make is that the focus and emphasis is always put on CO2 concentrations, why? Because it makes the global situation seem much more dire. The problem is that they are not 1 to 1 trends.

 

 

In closing I just want to make a few points I guess.

 

As with most things, being too idealistic or extreme on either end of a spectrum is not a good thing.

 

Outright denying that humans effect greenhouse gas levels and thus global climate is ridiculous and extreme.

 

However, exaggerating or misleadingly using data to "scare" people is extreme and wrong too.

 

The damage to the environment does need to be mitigated, but idealistic ideas or attempts at returning earth to how it was prior to industrialization is absurd.

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It isn't too difficult to look it up yourself but ok.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

 

 

Is it wrong of me to think that your link to a wikipedia page about "global warming" is still not enough? Especially after you told me to "google it" when I asked you to support YOUR claim... Never mind.

 

Your issue is with the politics, not the data.

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Is it wrong of me to think that your link to a wikipedia page about "global warming" is still not enough? Especially after you told me to "google it" when I asked you to support YOUR claim... Never mind.

 

Haha, ok this is fun.

 

Your issue is with the politics, not the data.

 

Right, I have no issue with the data. I have issue with the representation of the data by some groups with a specific detrimental agenda.

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Right, I have no issue with the data. I have issue with the representation of the data by some groups with a specific detrimental agenda.

 

So... You cannot support your original claim.

Now, can you define "detrimental agenda" as pertains to your quote above? Humorous that you were attacking people for such rhetoric just yesterday.

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So... You cannot support your original claim.

Now, can you define "detrimental agenda" as pertains to your quote above? Humorous that you were attacking people for such rhetoric just yesterday.

 

Sigh.

 

My original claim was that it is an improper assertion that current warming is DIRECTLY due to human emitted CO2.

 

And it isn't, there are a multitude of effects. Do humans contribute to the warming, yeh, is the warming directly related to human cause, well yeh as much as it is directly related to natural causes.

 

Saying warming is only directly related to humans and not the ENTIRE dynamic is irresponsible.

 

As far as attacking people over "rhetoric" I can only imagine you are referring to your quote of "increased global climate".

 

If you had read my posts and remembered my main points I'm sure you would know the "detrimental agenda" but I can repeat myself its no problem.

 

The detrimental agenda is the damage that can and will be done to the economy by specific groups that exaggerate and misrepresent GW data to scare people.

 

Phew.

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The detrimental agenda is the damage that can and will be done to the economy by specific groups that exaggerate and misrepresent GW data to scare people.

Can you provide some specifics about what damage you assert "can and will" be done to the economy by the politics of discussing global climate change?

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