Shock! Horror! CO2 feeds us!

Written for TOOL Magazine, August 2008

Once upon a time, street-corner zealots shouting “the end is nigh” and warning us to abandon our sins did it for religious reasons. These days, zealots shout the same message with the same warning about sinning, but they do it for climatic reasons.

It’s going on for ever, isn’t it? Scare stories about the planet’s climatic doom proliferate endlessly and there are no signs of it letting up. If there’s light at the end of the tunnel it must be a train coming.

So the government’s decided to change the climate. Probably just to shut everybody up. We’re all sick of hearing about it. The Greens say the ETS bill is too weak for them—although, hectoring us to change our ways, they seem more concerned with our lifestyles than the actual climate.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? There’s so much guilt around AGW (anthropogenic global warming)—we’re not just burning fuel, we’re greedy and selfish—even criminally negligent!

But all we did was turn the lights on. All we did was drive to the shops for milk and apples. All we did was turn on the heater during a cold night. Why is it suddenly a crime to do these things?

Of course, it’s no crime at all—never was, never will be. The message of dangerous AGW has been rammed down our throats since the late 1980s, until our guilt nerve is rubbed raw and bleeding. The message is now an anti-industrial political philosophy delivered with religious fervour; it’s certainly not, on close examination, a scientific system of principle verified by observation and experiment.

CO2 is just a trace gas in the atmosphere. Did you know that you must wade through 2600 air molecules before encountering a single molecule of CO2? That’s how rare it is. But it’s an important nutrient required by plant life, even in the oceans. It has increased the planet’s vegetation, observed by satellite, by 6.2% over 18 years to 2003. CO2 makes plants grow bigger, faster.

CO2 lets us feed a world population increased by three quarters over 30 years. It’s amazing!

Does that make it a pollutant? Of course not. We are carbon-based life forms and carbon dioxide is vital to us. Only insane quantities are harmful—like filling the room with it. Even then it doesn’t poison us, it just shuts out the oxygen—and filling it with water would
do the same.

Many things that man does and emits damage the environment, but emitting carbon dioxide is not one of them! CO2 moves annually between the great natural reservoirs in gargantuan quantities—of the order of 200 billion tonnes—to which all human activities contribute a mere 3%. It boosts plant growth, even in the oceans, and its tiny contribution to global warming is absolutely overwhelmed by that of water vapour.

You don’t hear much about water vapour in discussions of the greenhouse effect, do you? But surely the Ministry for the Environment, NIWA, the government—they all tell us the truth, don’t they?

You can judge for yourself. The figures in the graphs are from www.geocraft. com (look under Articles, then Global Warming). This first graph shows the major greenhouse gases (GHGs) present right now in the atmosphere (but not water vapour).

Their global warming potential (GWP) varies, so that nitrous oxide (N2O), for example, has 310 times the influence of CO2—this graph is adjusted to show the different influences on warming.

The relative greenhouse strengths of the major GHGs, without water vapour.

The relative greenhouse “strengths” of the major GHGs. But water vapour is missing.









Now, you might be saying: “But this graph is what I expected.” Most New Zealanders could be forgiven for thinking that this is the whole picture; in other words, that CO2 dominates the scene. After all, we’re told it is the devil’s effusion often enough! But the next graph includes water vapour in the picture. And it’s telling.

The relative greenhouse strengths of the major GHGs, with water vapour.

Water vapour provides an overwhelming 95% of the greenhouse effect.








All the so-called major greenhouse gases shrink into obscurity! Surprised? Shocked? Well, wait—there’s more. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) offers “Stuff for students” on its website. It describes greenhouse gases at length, their growth in the atmosphere from human activities and states that they cause global warming. Of water vapour it says only it is “also an important greenhouse gas” and it does not reveal its dominance. But in light of the data shown here, that statement is nothing short of dissimulation and the scientists who authorised it deserve censure for indoctrinating children.

How can carbon dioxide have a dominant role in the greenhouse effect when it contributes only about 3.6% of it? Water vapour is about 26 times more powerful than CO2, yet it’s CO2 we’re constantly harangued about. The other gases are inconsequential, yet stupendous efforts are being made, at high cost, to protect the environment from their effects.

Our hard-working farming industry, their extraordinary efficiency the envy of the agricultural world, is at risk of being decimated (by our own government!) by attempts to tax the emission of a gas (methane) that IN TOTAL (including nature and industry) contributes a mere 0.36% of the greenhouse effect. Which is unfair and unscientific.

How much of these gases is mankind responsible for? Here is the same graph as above, with our contributions shown in green:

The relative greenhouse strengths of the major GHGs, with water vapour.

Printed on the columns are the anthropogenic (man-made) contributions. Humanity adds minuscule amounts of the GHGs. Add them up: about a quarter of one percent of the entire effect. They say mankind changes the climate with this? Nonsense.






Mankind’s contributions, shown here as the merest coat of green paint on the columns, total about 0.28% of the greenhouse effect. The Kyoto Protocol calls for carbon dioxide reductions of about 30% from developed countries—but reducing our CO2 emissions by 30% would cripple the economy while failing to alter the climate. If all countries co-operated, the greenhouse effect would come down by a full 0.08%—so what? Do we want to pay around $4.5 billion by 2025 for that?

The global warming scare distracts us from our emissions of genuine pollution: sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, soot, petroleum products, oils and other nasties. We have fought these emissions for decades, and now our motor vehicles boast technology that removes so many pollutants from the internal combustion engine that a modern car, driven around the most polluted of cities, actually discharges from its exhaust pipe an atmosphere cleaner than the air it sucks into the engine.

This is wonderful. But that real pollution has nothing to do with CO2, which is clean, healthy and 100% natural. It is essential to life and, as greenhouse growers know, it causes plants to grow bigger and faster when it’s fed to them in great dollops. It’s not pollution.

Do have a look around and see what is being proposed in your name for the sake of “climate change”—which is just “global warming” rebadged (notice there’s been no actual warming now for years).

I’m happy to answer your questions or your complaints if you wish to email me at richard [at], or visit the blog at

There’s a great deal more going on with this subject than you’d guess from the mainstream media, but there’s no reason to keep quiet and get shafted! You’re Kiwis—you’re good at asking questions.

Examples include: is the IPCC political or scientific? Is an ice age coming? Is there global warming in NZ? Is any arctic ice left? Are sea levels rising or falling? What’s so good about long-life light bulbs?

Keep thinking; see you next time.

Richard Treadgold

Views: 114

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation