For Al Gore, it's "a sad milestone." Scientists have announced that the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has reached a "record" level of 400 parts per million. Those who cling to the myth of man-made global warming insist this could be the tipping point for the greenhouse effect, causing the planet to sizzle, triggering floods and other catastrophes. Warmists should chill out. This CO2 increase is a triumph of human progress.
The usual suspects are crying the usual doom. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana responded to Mr. Gore's milestone tweet by reiterating the green godfather's "call to action." Science blogger Nicholas Thompson summarizes this view on The New Yorker magazine's website: "Everything we use that emits carbon dioxide needs to be replaced with something that doesn't." Does that include human beings? Perhaps we can hold our collective breath until activists come looking for carbon-dioxide emitters to be "replaced." That's after we turn green.
Paul Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels at the Cato Institute offer a calmer, constructive view of what's happening. They observe that while the rise in atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels in recent centuries has tracked with an increase in the use of fossil fuels, it has also been accompanied by great leaps in the human condition, including a global population growth of 75 percent and a doubling of life expectancy in the developed world.
The Cato researchers remind us that with climate change, "it's not the heat, it's the sensitivity," meaning that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide should be evaluated based on their actual effect on temperature — and the impact appears to be minimal. There have been periods during Earth's long history when carbon-dioxide levels were as much as 20 times greater than they are now — even during frigid ice ages. Levels of up to 8,000 parts per million have been measured in rock layers dating to the Carboniferous Period — about 450 million years ago, a time free from the influence of internal-combustion engines, factories and the conveniences of modern life that the warmists detest (but enthusiastically enjoy).
If there were a direct correlation between carbon-dioxide concentrations and global temperatures, high levels would coincide with a tropical epoch rather than an ice age, endless romance under the coconut palms, never ice and snow. The link between carbon-dioxide levels and temperature — the premise of global-warming hysteria — is weak at best.
Even the BBC, which has long championed the global-warming movement, has finally acknowledged research that shows that the planet isn't actually growing hotter, despite the increase in carbon dioxide. The Beeb's environment correspondent conceded on Sunday that the climatic "standstill" means extreme warming isn't on the horizon.
That leaves us with higher carbon-dioxide concentrations, a condition in which plant life thrives, turbocharging crop growth and food production. The milestone of 400 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide is not to be feared, but applauded. It's a sign of human progress. You could call it the "greening" of Planet Earth.
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