Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CO2 Dangers Everywhere


Occasionally, I have some offline exchanges between bloggers who publish materials that proclaim the next great disaster about to befall us because of anthropogenic increases in CO2... that's CO2 increases caused by human activity. Here is a slightly edited (for brevity) example:

I read your article

 I was curious about the reliability of projections regarding problems to marine life given the longer geological history of CO2 with much higher concentrations (image presented by Dr. Tim Patterson, Professor of Geology and Director, Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Center, Carleton University).

It would seem that given the history of CO2 concentration changes over millions (not thousands) of years, the oceans should have suffered significant damage from CO2 concentrations that were much higher than today's. Perhaps there is something different about CO2 and today's oceans? I expect that Dr. Patterson would have written something about that phenomenon if it had occurred and done the damage projected in your article.
His response:
Thanks for your note. The oceans have been more acidic in the past due to higher levels of atmospheric CO2. In fact the worst mass extinction in history may have occurred under such a scenario:
Further, the PETM also resulted in a mass extinction event:
I'm not fully confident in the projections made in the new paper -- I was just just reporting their results and the potential implications of their model. I would be quite surprised in CO2 levels reached 1000 ppm by 2100. I personally think that there may be some natural mechanism that will help moderate the rise ( i.e. more plankton, higher rates of weathering, etc) even if humans don't take steps to reduce emissions. Don't get me wrong, the oceans will likely be more acidic but I think less so than this model projects.
My response:
I understand the connection that is trying to be made between CO2 and possible ocean problems. However, if you look at the CO2 record presented by Dr. Patterson, you will see that extremely high concentrations of CO2 were present for hundreds of millions of years prior and subsequent to this Permian extinction, which would lead one to ask why the event approximately 300 million years ago could be connected to CO2 concentrations...and why not before then... and then how life in the oceans recovered while those concentrations remained many times higher than they are today?

It is more likely that the mass extinction of 300 million years ago was caused by events of the magnitude that occurred 65 million years ago... and we're still not getting "consensus" on that one.

It is worthwhile to look at the world to try to understand the impact of human activity. But there seems to be a general hysteria about CO2 and an effort to link its presence to every real or imagined past, present, and future problem.
This blogger displayed some intellectual honesty with me in this exchange, but his reservations were not noted on his website.


I want to be totally fair to the author of the website referenced above. He just contacted me offline with his comment:
Hi Bruce,

I'm not writing an opinion piece here -- I'm just reporting the potential implications if their model holds. When Dr. Patterson publishes his work, I may well cover it -- I'm not trying to promote some CO2 hysteria agenda.

One must ask if this kind of study (not the website where it was referenced) about CO2 is related to true intellectual investigation or the government funding trough for CO2 alarmist-researchers. After all, this study proposes that over the span of less than a century, mankind is turning the oceans acidic and there is danger of a mass extinction... when somehow marine life survived hundreds of millions of years during times when CO2 levels were much higher.

How about hydrogen sulfide?

Or maybe an asteroid?

Or maybe we don't know?

No, it has to be CO2....

I think we might need a new litmus test.

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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)