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« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 458 -- Messing With The Electoral College. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 460 -- Media Bias. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 459 -- Temperature & Carbon Dioxide.

Messing With Graphs-

Having somewhat recently seen Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, I must say that I am a teency bit jealous that he won a Nobel Peace Prize for-- essentially-- filming himself clicking through charts and graphs. Perhaps the reason he won the Nobel Peace Prize was the fact that he was able to sell things that weren't even really evident from the graphs.

For example, he uses one of the few meaningful graphs in the entire movie (this one)...


... to talk about the greenhouse effect:

“The relationship is actually very complicated but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside.”

Al Gore shows how carbon dioxide and temperatures have tracked together over the past half million or so years. Then he shows how recent carbon dioxide levels are far greater than they've ever been.

Okay, yeah, everyone gets the greenhouse effect. But there's a problem with the data. Temperatures actually rise and fall BEFORE the carbon dioxide concentrations rise and fall.

Indeed, here is essentially the same data Al Gore uses for his movie (.pdf):


If you look a lot more closely, you'll find that the temperature of the Earth-- based on ice core samples-- has risen and fallen many years (often hundreds of years) prior to respective increases and declines in carbon dioxide concentrations.

Moreover, to put those scary modern carbon dioxide concentrations into perspective, it should be noted that water vapor makes up approximately 95% of the entire greenhouse effect on this planet. Carbon dioxide comprises a little more than three and a half percent of all the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. More than that, greenhouse gases comprise no more than a few percent of the entire atmosphere (which is mostly made up of Nitrogen, Oxygen, etc.). CO2 is a tiny fraction of greenhouse gases, which are a tiny fraction of all atmospheric gases. A tiny fraction of a tiny fraction.

This perspective is only necessary, because as Al Gore rises up on stage in his cherry picker (how ironic), showing how modern carbon dioxide emissions are literally off the charts, one can't help but have a bit of trouble breathing.

So much CO2! [Cough Cough] Can't... inhale.

Really, though, CO2 is just a small part of our planet's air, and there is still plenty of oxygen to breathe; the air is actually getting cleaner in America today, for the most part. Moreover, the human impact on greenhouse gases is incredibly small (.pdf):


More than that, if you posed the general phrase, "This planet would be a better place if..." to random people on the street, or to brilliant scientists, or any other reasonable person, it is difficult to imagine anyone actually filling in "...we would just forgo 307 trillion dollars worth of wealth to maybe prevent a degree or two of temperature rise over the next few generations."


Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Electoral College.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 October 2007 02:10 PM


If you really want to have some fun look at the heat retention values of methane compared to CO2.

Also, another great one is the global cooling after the 1990 erruption of Mt. Pinatubo put more hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere than the entire industrial revolution combined.

My favorite is google the chart on sea level elevations. No matter what they say about anthropomorphic global warming the rate has stayed the same for ages 8" per 100 years.

He does have one thing right, the data does show the earth is warming. However, we general do in interglacial ages.

Posted by: Rob B at October 29, 2007 09:53 PM

What is funny is when I was growing up we were all told that a new ice age was coming to get us...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 30, 2007 07:35 AM

ZZ, I'm sure that in 10-20 years some strapping, young, progressive hack will do a PowerPoint presentation in front of cameras and win a Nobel Peace Prize telling us that the world is about to freeze to death. Again.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at October 30, 2007 07:58 AM

That Nobel Peace Prize is sooooo worthless! They keep giving it to such idiots. Let's see, we have Carter, Arafat, AND last but not least Gore!!!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 30, 2007 11:02 AM

You're actually incorrect about the amount of water vapor in the air. There is more carbon dioxide but it's still a very small amount.

Posted by: Karma at October 31, 2007 09:56 AM

Speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize, Carter, Gore and other well-known Socialist's, reminds me of how once-good intentions tend to go bad in the hands of socialist's do-gooders.

By the way, just e-mailed Algore, asking,"After a good, spicy, gut-busting Mexican lunch, is pooting considered a carbon credit, a carbon debit, or bad manners?"

That Algore, what a guy, he can answer the tough questions.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at October 31, 2007 01:44 PM