A Doctor Jeff Myth Buster: Carbon Dioxide is Just a Trace Gas – BIG DEAL!

 Posted by DrJeff on October 24th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


testPhoto caption: CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in parts per million over the last 400,000 years. Credit: NOAA.


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.


Here’s how the argument goes—and do it justice by reading it out loud, and kinda yelling whenever you see words in CAPS.


“Hey, you’re worried about CO2 concentration in the atmosphere going up because of human activity and causing an increase in global temperature?! GIVE ME A BREAK! It’s only a TRACE gas, currently making up only 0.038% of the atmosphere, or 380 parts per MILLION!!  SO WHAT if we increase it to a WHOPPING 1,000 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. Then it would ONLY comprise 0.1% of the atmosphere. BIG DEAL!! There is NO CONCEIVABLE WAY that changes in such a miniscule amount of CO2 could have any significant impact on the global environment. You’re preaching the sky is falling, and ANYONE WITH HALF A BRAIN can see that this is just SILLY! YOU must be part of some Scientists-in-Need-of-Federal-Funds—Green Business—Government (SiNoFF-GB-G) conspiracy that’s bent on destroying everything that is good. TAKE A WALK YOU ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST IN NEED OF A CAUSE. Why … you’re likely a paid operative of the SINoFF-GB-G machine!”


Ummm.. has anybody else heard this argument, or is it just me? Here’s my rebuttal (and you’re still using the CAPS-means-shouting thing.)


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TMN QuickLinks: Five Powerful Climate Change Lessons for A Very Important Earth Science Week October 11-17, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on October 11th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


EarthFromSpace_2560x1024Photo Caption: The Sun setting over the Pacific and a towering thundercloud, July 21, 2003 as seen from the International Space Station (Expedition 7). Click on the image and explore your world close-up using the scroll bars. The time to protect it is at hand.

This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.



Earth Science Week takes on a rather unique importance in 2009. This year’s theme is Understanding Climate. On December 7-18. 2009, the entire world will meet in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to hammer out the next international agreement on climate change and put in place new targets for greenhouse gas emissions. It may be humanity’s last opportunity to craft an agreement—AND get it ratified by the world’s nations—before the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 (and in force in 2005) expires in 2012. This seems to me to be a very big deal for the future of this planet, particularly in light of the latest projections for the impact of global warming—which indicate we need to act NOW or face irreversible consequences (see CNN, March 12, 2009)—and Copenhagen is the venue for that action.


The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has now issued 4 Reports, the last issued February 2, 2007:


On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations scientific panel studying climate change declared that the evidence of a warming trend is “unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years.

New York Times, October 11, 2009


If we allow things to continue unchanged and we don’t take action today, it would destabilize human society.

—Rajendra Pachaurihead, Head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Climate chief warns against ‘Tragic’ inaction”, CNN, August 21, 2008

Here are some relevant links:

Findings of the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, see Union of Concerned Scientists, February 16, 2007


June 16, 2009 White  House Report Global Climate Change Impacts the United States: coverage by USAToday (‘Game Changer’),  CBS (White House Sounds Alarm), CNN (Report Warns of Cimate Change Effects), ABC (US Climate Report Dire)


Assessment by U.S. Department of Defense on U.S. National Security, and on the grave scenarios that can play out from global warming: New York Times (August 8, 2009)


My point is that over the next few months, the world faces a unique and seminally important moment in time, and Earth Science Week 2009 should serve as a timely catalyst for education in the US. HERE is the countdown clock to Copenhagen.


To date I’ve created 5 Posts at Blog on the Universe—5 powerful lessons—on climate change and global warming that I’d like to share with you as resources to use in classrooms and in discussions at home this coming week.


First, what is Earth Science Week?


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A Day in the Life of the Earth: Understanding Human-Induced Climate Change

 Posted by DrJeff on June 13th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Driving with Jordi.

This is crossposted at Huffington Post HERE.

Note to reader: click on the links in the text for the real data. This is not a work of fiction.

From Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies concerning this post—

Public understanding of climate change depends on an understanding of time scales. Goldstein [Dr. Jeff] does a brilliant job of making clear the rapidity of the human-made intervention in the climate system, and the correlation of global warming with the appearance of technology powered by fossil fuels.

“Daddy, how long is a billion years?”

As soon as we got in the car this morning, and buckled up, I said “so Jordi, I need some help. I need more material for the blog.” “Daddy, what do you mean by ‘material’?”  “That’s what writers call the stuff they use to create stories”, said daddy.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, so he started talking about … the Sun. He had lots of questions—where did it come from, what’s burning on it to make it so bright, how old is it, what will happen to Earth when it stops burning? The last one was particularly cool. I asked him if he thought the question “what will happen to the Earth when the Sun dies?” is something lots of kids might ask. He said “yes!!” I asked him who he thought was the first person to actually figure it out. He didn’t know. I told him it was me.

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Apples and You

 Posted by DrJeff on May 21st, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Jeffism’ by Dr. Jeff and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

Last time on the blog, I used astronaut John Grunsfeld’s recent Business Trip to the Hubble Space Telescope to show you that the perceived limitless ocean of air under which we live is really not limitless. At an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) above Earth’s surface, you’re effectively at the top of the atmosphere (since 99.99% of it is beneath you.) So let’s really put this in perspective with a Dr. Jeff Jeffism:

Earth’s atmosphere compared to Earth is thinner than

the skin of an apple compared to an apple.

I truly hope that makes an impression on you. Read it again and let it sink in. Then take a moment and reflect on what you’re thinking.

Now … for the rest of the story—

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