Is more CO2 beneficial for Earth's ecosystems?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 03:47 PM GMT am 20. November 2009

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We should emit as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as possible and oppose efforts to regulate CO2 emissions, because more CO2 is good for the Earth. That's the take-home message of an audacious TV ad that was run this fall by the advocacy group, CO2isgreen.com. "Higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the Earth's ecosystems, and support more plant and animal life", the ad proclaims.

It's the brainchild of H. Leighton Steward, a retired oil industry executive, and Corbin J. Robertson, Jr., chief executive and leading shareholder in Natural Resource Partners, a Houston-based owner of coal resources that lets other companies mine, in return for royalties. According to an article in the Washington Post, the ad ran this fall in New Mexico and Montana, which have key Congressmen that CO2isgreen.com hopes to sway. The ads form part of a major PR campaign being waged by the fossil fuel industry and its allies in advance of the crucial U.N. Climate Change Conference, which will be held December 7 - 18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. At that meeting, the leaders of the world will gather to negotiate an agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The new agreement will be the world's road map for dealing with climate change, and the stakes are huge.


Figure 1. Screen shot of the new ad by the advocacy group CO2isgreen.com.

Let's consider the scientific accuracy of the ad's three main points:

1) "Congress is considering a law that would classify CO2 as pollution. This will cost us jobs".
Well, this is a reasonable concern. Fossil fuels represent the foundation upon which modern civilization is built. The marvelous inventions of civilized life that have brought increased health, lifespan, and prosperity to billions of people are largely due to the use of fossil fuels. Regulating CO2 and moving to non-fossil fuel based energy sources won't be cheap or easy, and there is a potential for significant economic harm if our politicians bungle the job. The fossil fuel industry employs millions of people, and some of these jobs will no doubt be lost as new "green" energy sources are developed. However, the longer-term economic benefits of moving to a less fossil fuel-intensive economy, plus the jobs created as a result, must be weighed against the shorter term economic disruption that may occur.

2) "There is no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant".
Webster's dictionary defines a pollutant as "man-made waste that contaminates an environment". Webster's defines "contaminate" as "to make inferior or impure". CO2 is man-made waste, and there is scientific evidence that added CO2 can make our atmosphere "inferior" to its present state, or else the EPA would not be considering regulations. As just one example, when CO2 is dissolved in the oceans, the water grows more acidic. Corals and other creatures that build shells out of calcium carbonate cannot form their shells if the acidity passes a critical level--their shells will dissolve. Thus, for these organisms, CO2 is definitely a pollutant. Several shell-building planktonic organisms, such as coccolithophorids, pteropods, and foraminifera, form an important basis of the food chain in cold ocean waters, and the continued increase in CO2 emissions have many scientists very concerned about a collapse of the oceanic food chain in these regions in coming decades. Presumably, CO2isgreen.com is taking the very narrow view that a pollutant is something that harms human health when breathed. The more important question is, how does CO2 emitted by fossil fuel generation, plus all the effects that come with it, impact human health and the health of Earth's ecosystems?

3) "Higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the Earth's ecosystems, and support more plant and animal life".
It is true that many plants grow faster under enhanced CO2--the so-called "CO2 fertilization effect". Just ask your neighborhood commercial indoor marijuana grower, who probably grows his or her plants in an enhanced CO2 environment. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that crop yields under unstressed conditions increased by 0 - 25% for a doubling of CO2, and that growth of young tree stands also increased. However, the IPCC noted that ground level ozone pollution will limit the CO2 fertilization effect. Ozone pollution is caused by emissions from fossil fuel burning, and will increase in a warmer world since the chemical reactions that create ozone act more efficiently at higher temperatures. Furthermore, the higher temperatures, increased drought, and increased insect pests that added CO2 is likely to bring to the atmosphere via greenhouse effect warming will induce major stresses to plants that will counteract the CO2 fertilization effect. A 2009 paper by Battisti and Naylor in Science titled, "Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat", reported that the 2003 heat wave in Europe--featuring temperatures predicted to be the norm by the end of the century--reduced harvests of fruits and grains by 21 - 36%. The 2007 IPCC report noted, "even slight warming decreases yields in seasonally and low latitude regions". Most of the world's population at risk of starvation live in such regions (e.g., sub-Saharan Africa).

To get more CO2 in the air, we have to mine, transport, and burn fossil fuels, and potentially fight wars to protect them. This creates a host of effects highly detrimental to people and ecosystems:

1) Particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides emitted as a result of burning coal and operating motor vehicles cause over $118 billion in health and other damages per year in the U.S., according to a Congressionally-ordered National Academy of Sciences study released last month. The study said this was a "substantial underestimate", as it did not consider climate change-related costs, or pollution emissions from a wide variety of other sources.

2) Oil and natural gas drilling and oil spills have had catastrophic effects on many ecosystems over the past century, and will continue to do so. Coal mining via mountaintop removal has laid waste to vast regions of the Appalachians, obliterating over 700 miles of rivers and streams. Failures of slurry ponds dams such as the one that failed in December 2008 in Tennessee have contaminated numerous ecosystems, and killed hundreds (the Buffalo Creek, WV dam failure of 1972 killed 125, and a 1966 slurry pond dam failure in Aberfan, Wales killed 144, including 126 schoolchildren). The Physicians for Social Responsibility put out a report this week called Coal's Assault on Human Health that details many more examples of how coal is bad for ecosystems and human health.

3) Coal mining accidents killed 65 miners in the U.S. in 2006, and kill tens of thousands of miners worldwide each year (China has averaged 6,000 deaths per year this decade). Tens of thousands of miners contract black lung disease each year, as well.

The Greening of Planet Earth
Fossil fuel industry-funded Public Relations campaigns focusing on the benefits of CO2 for life on Earth are nothing new. In 2006, I blogged about a TV ad run by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) that proclaimed, "as for carbon dioxide, it isn't smog or smoke, it's what we breathe out and plants breathe in. Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life.". In 1991, coal giant Western Fuels founded an organization called "The Greening Earth Society" which spent $250,000 to produce the video, "The Greening of Planet Earth" (available on Youtube). The 30-minute movie features scientists who describe in glowing terms the tremendous increases in plant growth that will occur due to increased CO2. Set to appropriately stirring music, the movie concludes: "The future also holds great promise. And contributing to this promise is the positive effect that carbon dioxide has upon our world. Crop plants will continue to grow more productively, contributing to ever-greater supplies of food. Forests will extend their ranges. Grasses will grow where none grow now. And great tracts of barren land we be reclaimed. In fact, it is not inconceivable that the vitality of our biosphere could rise by a full order of magnitude over the next few centuries, to a new, greening Planet Earth". According to Boston Globe investigative reporter Ross Gelbspan in his book The Heat is On, the movie was shown extensively in Washington D.C. and in the capitals of OPEC nations, and was the favorite movie of President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu. It's interesting to note that The Greening Earth Society shares the same mailing address and fax number as the Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), a fossil fuel industry front group that was given $35 million to fight climate change regulation in 2008. According to the creators of desmogblog.com, a website dedicated to "Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science", that money, plus an extra $5 million, was shuffled to a new industry front group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), and used to help fund the "Clean Coal" TV ads that dominated the airwaves during the November 2008 election. The details are in the excellent new book, Climate Cover-up, written by desmogblog.com co-founder James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore.

Commentary
The CO2isgreen.com ad is beautifully produced, with multiple windows depicting flowing pictures of flowers blooming, animals grazing, crops growing, and the sun shining over these grand scenes of nature's bounty, all set to the soothing sound track of some slick New Age music. Who wouldn't want to live in such a world? Unfortunately, this is a fantasy world created by fossil fuel industry Public Relations people, and we live in the real world where physics and science rule. Oil is not clean, coal is worse, and the extraction, transportation, and burning of fossil fuels that accompany the enhanced-CO2 world we live in are already causing massive environmental destruction. Add in the immense environmental damage likely to occur as a result of the coming climate change storm, and the fantasy that more CO2 will be good for the world dissolves into a nightmare for a huge proportion of Earth's ecosystems--and the people who depend upon them for life.

Hacked emails purport to show climate scientists' cover-up
A hacker broke into an email server at the Climate Research Unit of the UK's University of East Anglia this week and posted ten years worth of private email exchanges between leading scientists who've published research linking humans to climate change. Realclimate.org has an interesting response to the debacle, saying the emails are a "presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence dating back to 1996 and as recently as Nov 12)". They show one example of a "cherry-picked" distortion of one of the emails that global warming contrarians are using to try to discredit the science of climate change, and successfully refute the distortion, in my mind. The realclimate groups adds:

"More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to "get rid of the Medieval Warm Period", no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no "marching orders" from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn't much to it".

There's not a person alive who would not look bad if their private emails made public, taken out of context, and subjected to attack. The reputations of all the scientists involved will suffer, as will understanding of the science of climate change. Global warming contrarians have not been able to effectively dispute the reality of human-caused climate change by publishing peer-reviewed scientific articles, so they've done what any effective (and unethical) politician would do--resort to personal attacks of dubious merit on their opponents, in an attempt to muddy the waters and distract people from the facts. That's politics, and it's not too surprising to see this sort of ugly episode in a game where the stakes are so high.

None of the so-called "smoking gun" emails the contrarians are excited about change what I pointed out in in my previous post: Arctic sea ice was at a new record low this month, human-emitted greenhouse gases are largely to blame, and the polar ice cap is expected to melt by 2030, throwing the climate into a dangerous new unstable mode.

I'll have a new post on Monday.

Jeff Masters

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226. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting atmoaggie:
Dr M: None of the so-called "smoking gun" emails the contrarians are excited about change what I pointed out in in my previous post: Arctic sea ice was at a new record low this month, human-emitted greenhouse gases are largely to blame, and the polar ice cap is expected to melt by 2030, throwing the climate into a dangerous new unstable mode.

So, Dr. M, any thoughts as to how this Arctic sea ice extent can be so remarkable, yet the obs from sites in Northern Canada, Baffin Island, and Greenland are largely stable with many of them going back to the 1940s and in this one going back to 1880?



The 10 single highest yearly average temps for this site, in Greenland, occurred between 1915 and 1978, and only the last few years have been remarkable in the sea ice front!?!?!?! I would love to know how.


It is true that temperatures in Greenland were of comparable warmth in the 1940, compared to the 2000s. This is not the case for the entire Arctic though, see the latest temperature anomaly curve from the 2009 Arctic report card:



Furthermore, sea ice expert Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski of the Navy Postgraduate School blames 60% of the melting during the past decade on heat brought in by ocean currents from the Atlantic and Pacific. These warm waters eat away the ice from underneath.

And yes, I find the blog comments entertaining, though often in a junior high school/middle school kind of way.

Jeff Masters
what topic would that be about you being a troll
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223. beell
Quoting pearlandaggie:
well, here's a statistician's take on that cherry-picked "trick"...it appears that the effort was to graft temperature data onto a proxy record to mask a divergence between the instrumental record and the proxy record at the end of the 20th century. i know, i know...irrelevant and completely in line with data analysis best practices! :) j/k


Thanks, pearland. A nice link. A glimmer of understanding here on this issue.
Link
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Pottery, the cheese was all in here.
(I just made myself groan, that's about as bad as it gets.) Congrats on the Chili!

Why IS A-Aggie still working? His kids must be driving him bonkers.
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Dr M: None of the so-called "smoking gun" emails the contrarians are excited about change what I pointed out in in my previous post: Arctic sea ice was at a new record low this month, human-emitted greenhouse gases are largely to blame, and the polar ice cap is expected to melt by 2030, throwing the climate into a dangerous new unstable mode.

So, Dr. M, any thoughts as to how this Arctic sea ice extent can be so remarkable, yet the obs from sites in Northern Canada, Baffin Island, and Greenland are largely stable with many of them going back to the 1940s and in this one going back to 1880?



The 10 single highest yearly average temps for this site, in Greenland, occurred between 1915 and 1978, and only the last few years have been remarkable in the sea ice front!?!?!?! I would love to know how.
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Ah, Awake. Tonight was Chili con carne. Hence the need for the cheese. Never did find it, but who cares anymore. It worked out just fine, and the chili was Brilliant (if I say so, myself)
Member Since: Oktober 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24800
216. That is one of your best.

Dinner...
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dashboard cow man, I swear you have a smiley face for every occasion!
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212, me too. heheheheheh
Member Since: Oktober 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24800
Quoting NRAamy:
Hey, stay off the Scandinavians!!!

Hey, I have to give the French a break once in awhile....


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.... unless it refers to Surfmom, in which case it would be "waxing" as in applying a non skid surface to a wave riding vehicle.
Whew. Words are fraught with danger...
Member Since: Oktober 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24800
Oh the pictures that popped into my head. I'd be banned for life! Shame on me.

you and me too!!!! I really had to go into edit mode!!!!!
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Quoting NRAamy:
do you think Doc Masters ever reads this blog and just shakes his head?

Quoting pottery:
LOLOL, you guys are waxing tonight.

We have to do something while waiting for your Diary installment.
Okay, not much of a dinner tonight. Going to make grilled cheese and open a can of soup. You can do that, Pottery, we know you can do it!

Amy, Dr. Masters couldn't read too much of this blog, he'd be on the couch.
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, stay off the Scandinavians!!!


Oh the pictures that popped into my head. I'd be banned for life! Shame on me.
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..."waxing" is used in the "old" sense of the word. As in 'waxing witty' etc. The new meaning has certain connotations that we will not entertain here.
Member Since: Oktober 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24800
LOLOL, you guys are waxing tonight.
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do you think Doc Masters ever reads this blog and just shakes his head?
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Hey, stay off the Scandinavians!!!

Hey, I have to give the French a break once in awhile....
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, stay off the Scandinavians!!!
Waiting on the Rain

Danish "Art Rock". Ya'll can judge for yourselves what it is.

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Will be really interesting to see what comes out of Denmark

Smileyssomething rotten most likely....


Good one! Polonius would be proud, Claudius would have you hanged.
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Diary

Nov 20, pm. some days are diamonds. no rain, but cooler. looking for grated parmesan cheese in the dark voids of a food cupboard, found a bottle, unopened, of Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera, hecho en Venezuela. cannot recall its arrival. Life is just fine. Showers forecast for tomorrow.
Member Since: Oktober 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24800
Quoting capeflorida:

But you are not!
You are just another right wing clone that keeps spewing the talking points!


No, I'm not a scientist. But I am a statistician and IF I was a scientist I wouldn't be defending any scientist who conducts science with the statistical methods that are being exposed.

Yea...you got me though. I'm a right wing clone. All because I think for myself and question the validity of a study that my be compromised.



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Quoting NRAamy:
Will be really interesting to see what comes out of Denmark

something rotten most likely....


Hey, stay off the Scandinavians!!!
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Quoting NRAamy:
Will be really interesting to see what comes out of Denmark

something rotten most likely....

OHHHHH, Hamlet! Much better than the dumpster crack. Kudos!

I agree; must see on the big screen. Theses (thesis's?) have been written on the difference in watching films on the large screen/and in the community of an audience.
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Quoting ConchHondros:


now THATS funny

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Awake.....you CAN NOT see 2012 on Netflix!!!!! It must be seen on the big screen!!!
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Quoting NRAamy:
Will be really interesting to see what comes out of Denmark

something rotten most likely....


now THATS funny
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Will be really interesting to see what comes out of Denmark

something rotten most likely....
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Quoting NRAamy:
Awake....I am going to go see 2012 tomorrow...I will have my report Monday AM.....

:)

Excellent! I think I may actually have to shell out for this one, too, but hubby joined Netflix and insists we use it to the max!

BUT ALL DAY I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR POTTERY'S RUMMY DIARY! I think he has me on ignore.

(Delay was because I was laughing, too.)

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Good evening all.
Some very interesting comments here.
At the end of the day (2012?LOL), it seems to me that World Leaders (as we have called them) have no options but to dither about, and make PC noises based on "current information received".
And no one trusts the information anymore apparently. With good reason. Allegations, refutations, he said you said she said......
Will be really interesting to see what comes out of Denmark.
Member Since: Oktober 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24800
Quoting Glenlivet:


Hey I got my PhD in Blog Ethics from the same place your Mom scavenges for food, in the dumpster behind Denny's.

Global Warming hysteria is killing the economy. Therefore, anyone who sides with this shameful illogical science should be considered a domestic terrorist and should be jailed for treason.


The mom & dumpster thing...funny, I mean really it is. In a world where IQ is measured by the speed and thought that goes into the ultimate comeback...thats a good one. The terrorist thing...too far
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Quoting atmoaggie:
183: That's uncalled for, regardless of whose side of the bed you get up on.

Admin/Jeff: go ahead, you won't be accused of censoring opposing views for that one. We'll know why you sent him packing.


atmoaggie, you and I may disagree, and you and I may disagree with others, but I applaud you for taking a stance on this despicable post to which you answered. Congratulations to you! If we are at a point in our civilization that dialogue is consider treason, we have not het arrived. I always remember this saying from my mother, "We aren't what we should be; we aren't what we are supposed to be; but at least we're not what we were!" It would seem some people should take a deep look into themselves to see what they should be.

Again, I commend you for that defense of Dr. Masters. You must have read Voltaire at some point in your life.
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I am a little sensitive, I got my degree from a dumpster behind a Denny's...

you just made me snort!!!

:)
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188: Did ya have to quote him?

I am a little sensitive, I got my degree from a dumpster behind a Denny's...
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Awake....I am going to go see 2012 tomorrow...I will have my report Monday AM.....

:)
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1900hurricane, glad drought has eased.

Atmo...uhhh, sure, you Aggies knock yourself out, sounds like a wild Friday night! whoo hoo :)
You know I'm just having fun with you...

oooooo, Grothar, dah-link, just a reminder -- don't quote the the shameful ones. When they are banned, their posts disappear, but yours won't. Use that red exclamation mark on the right.

XXXOOO
Domestic Ter, er, Goddess
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Quoting Glenlivet:


Hey I got my PhD in Blog Ethics from the same place your Mom scavenges for food, in the dumpster behind Denny's.

Global Warming hysteria is killing the economy. Therefore, anyone who sides with this shameful illogical science should be considered a domestic terrorist and should be jailed for treason.


So this is what we have come to. For shame!
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183: That's uncalled for, regardless of whose side of the bed you get up on.

Admin/Jeff: go ahead, you won't be accused of censoring opposing views for that one. We'll know why you sent him packing.
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Gee, got a little shrill in here a bit ago with the stereotype-hurling stereotypes doing what they have been programmed to do.
"Who flung poo?"

And someone is denying that the CRU emails give the impression not of objective research, but of those with a real bent to make AGW look as scary as possible even if it means being selective in the way things are worded or the way data plots are drawn up? I don't see how...

So, myself and Pearland are going to plot up Mann's hockey stick tree ring temperature reconstruction. In our emails we decide that we are going to do it on a plot with the y-axis ranging from absolute zero to 400 Kelvin. The plot is a flat line. We get published! (I know, just go with it.) A IPNotCC is formed. Billions are spent. We have to understand how the apparently effective thermostat works! 10 years later, life-changing international legislation is looming that could commit every soul that doesn't want for food to paying double for everything because...ummm, climate stopped changing and it is all our fault!

About that time, the cleaning lady finds all of these emails on the desk, copies them, and sends them to Discover magazine.

Would you all call those emails talking about the complex (snicker!) processes we used to show a flat line in historical and current temperatures irrelevant?!?!?!
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
I have an itchy finger.

Flooded roadways in San Antonio.
And they're in severe drought.

Acutally, the super-wet October that we had in Texas has caused the drought to ease from Exceptional all the way down to merely Moderate in San Antonio.

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I have an itchy finger.

Flooded roadways in San Antonio.
And they're in severe drought.
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Quoting Grothar:


round #3 Same thing happened to my alarm clock, what's the big deal!

You just didn't want to go to work.
Wanted to sit around the beach with Dan and watch documentaries.
Me three.
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Quoting PcolaDan:
Round two:

from MSNBC
"Scientists circulated beams of protons in the world's largest atom smasher Friday night for the first time after a year of repairs caused by a spectacular failure after the $10 billion machine was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault."


round #3 Same thing happened to my alarm clock, what's the big deal!
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I was a long time fence sitter on the GW subject until this years events. This item came out in May

Are the US Temp records accruate

Then a few months after that is released, the original data used for the basis of the modeling claims, gets deleted and no longer exists. Strange coincidence, maybe.

Now we have obvious questions relating to the hacked info. Illegally obtained or not, it deserves inquiry.

Most bothersome is the continued stance of the GW alarmists that this entire subject is settled and it is far from that indeed. I believe we will ultimately get to the truth.

Perhaps the public inquiry that is sure to follow will provide the visibility to that which is fact and that which is manipulated and those who are liable.

Right now, this entire subject smells of deception, greed and crime on all sides.

I don't think anyone disputes the need to clean up our act, but we deserve to have actual truth in fact, without question. That does not exist.

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Oh, Dan, please...we have real problems here on Earth.

Following the Eggo shortage, more traumatic news:

Rain may put pumpkin pie in peril, Nestle says

Nestle -- which sells nearly all the canned pumpkin in the U.S. -- says poor weather hurt its harvest, creating a potential shortage of its Libby's pumpkin pie products through the holidays.

The company said heavy rains made it nearly impossible to pick its pumpkins during this year's harvest. The longer the pumpkins sit in the muddy fields, the more they deteriorate. As a result, the company announced this week that it would not pack any more pumpkins for the season -- which means it may be hard to find its canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling product until next year's harvest.
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Round two:

from MSNBC

"Scientists circulated beams of protons in the world's largest atom smasher Friday night for the first time after a year of repairs caused by a spectacular failure after the $10 billion machine was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault."
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Hangin' on the beach and watching documentaries?
I'm IN.
Hey, Dan, can I come over on our white Black Friday?
(Was that from the same guy who was drinking his screen name? I dunno, I'm so old I have CRS, Can't Remember S___.)
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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