Goldstein: Emission implausible


, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

The more you research global warming, the more you realize we're being told things that don't add up.

Here's some examples.

"Green" celebrities often claim to reduce their carbon imprint to zero when flying around the world by buying "carbon offsets".

One popular way of doing this is by planting trees.

Let's do the math.

It takes 15 trees 40 to 50 years to absorb five tons of carbon.

A return flight from Toronto to Vancouver injects 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per passenger.

Carbon dioxide takes 50 to 200 years to dissipate naturally.

Therefore, to absorb most of the carbon dioxide caused by one passenger taking one domestic round-trip flight across Canada in 2007, requires planting 15 trees today that won't complete the job until 2047-2057, assuming none is destroyed by fire, disease or insects. If they are, they'll release their carbon back into the atmosphere.

As Guy Dauncy and Patrick Mazza write in Stormy Weather, 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change, from which I took these figures: "If we imagine that tree planting can be the solution to the world's climate problems, we may be making a massive miscalculation."

Flying is also one of the worst ways to emit greenhouse gases. Taking one long flight can easily exceed a year's worth of car emissions.

Plus, it injects the gas into the atmosphere at high altitude, heightening the greenhouse effect.

The only way to be "carbon neutral" when flying is to get off the plane before it takes off.

Then there's Kyoto's "clean development mechanism" allowing developed countries to obtain "carbon credits" to emit more greenhouse gases by bankrolling projects to reduce them in developing nations.

But we can't even be sure our foreign aid is reaching the people who most need it now.

How can we possibly know these projects will ever happen, particularly in corrupt dictatorships?

Remember the widespread fraud in the UN's oil-for-food program in Iraq?

Wait until Kyoto, a UN treaty, is fully operational.

We're told ethanol added to gasoline reduces greenhouse gases.

Most ethanol in the U.S., the world's biggest emitter, comes from corn.

It takes about 74 units of greenhouse gas-emitting fossil-fuel energy to produce 100 units of ethanol energy.

You also lose the carbon dioxide absorption value of the corn.

While ethanol added to gas produces a net of 30% less carbon-dioxide emissions compared to plain gas, to plant enough corn to make this significant for global warming, would, as Robert Henson writes in The Rough Guide to Climate Change, require covering 15% of the world's agricultural land -- a country the size of India -- with nothing but corn, solely for ethanol.

That would cause starvation.

There's also a war between proponents of "adaptation" and "mitigation" in addressing global warming.

Supporters of "adaptation" argue people living below sea level near any large body of water, especially the oceans, will always be vulnerable to hurricanes, flooding, tsunamis, with or without global warming.

They want to start moving the most vulnerable populations inland. For them, rebuilding New Orleans where it is, is madness.

They also argue, since we cannot abandon fossil fuels overnight, we must invest in new technology to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide burning them emits.

They note global warming has some positive effects -- for example, a longer growing season in Canada -- of which we must take advantage.

Incredibly, some "environmentalists" who advocate "mitigation" -- focusing only on reducing emissions -- describe these strategies as worthless, even sinister, arguing they distract from the crisis.

Their logic is insane.

Man-made greenhouse gases last up to thousands of years.

No matter how fast we reduce them, their concentrations in the atmosphere will rise for decades.

That's what the science says. If it's right, the only policy that makes sense is mitigation AND adaptation.

Unless you think ideology is more important than humanity.