By JR on Monday, January 18, 2016
Incoherent fury over a comic strip
I have some comments at the foot of the report below
The leading environmental-themed comic strip in the United States, Mark Trail, is apparently written by a climate-change denier.
The strip’s expanded Sunday editions are intended to be educational, and this week’s (1/3/16) featured a lesson about sulfur dioxide. “Sulfur dioxide is a major cause of acid rain!” the title character, a naturalist, exclaims. He notes that it’s “a byproduct of large-scale farms, power plants and other industries,” as well as “the burning of fossil fuels by large transportation vehicles.”
Trail strikes a positive note, highlighting the importance of environmental awareness: “Fortunately, levels of manmade sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere have been declining for the past two and a half decades as more people have become aware of the issue!”
But then the strip takes an odd turn, suggesting that the big threat to nature from sulfur dioxide comes from nature itself:
"Recently, an enormous eruption from the volcano Bardarbunga in Iceland released at least 120,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day—eight times higher than the levels produced by all manmade sources in the entire continent of Europe each day
When the eruption ended…it had produced enough lava to cover an area the size of Manhattan—having a tremendous negative impact on air quality."
The information in the strip, which appears to come from a UPI story (9/24/15), gives a misleading impression of the environmental impact of the volcano: The 11 million metric tonnes of sulfur dioxide it released into the atmosphere (BBC, 4/15/15) is roughly a tenth of the amount humans release each year, and overall about 99 percent of SO2 in the atmosphere was put there by people.
But that misleading impression—that nature’s impact on air pollution far outweighs humanity’s—is precisely what the strip’s author, James Allen, was seemingly trying to convey. As he explained to readers on the strips’ Facebook group (1/3/16):
"Today’s Mark Trail—folks I try not to get political over here, but I can admit to you that today’s strip is a little dose of “get real” to people that think mankind is ruining the planet by creating global warming! We are so tiny compared to this planet and what it can do (and recover from)".
The idea that humans are too insignificant to affect the climate is a common trope of global warming deniers. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Since 1750, humans have added to the atmosphere nearly 900 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, creating a marked change in the rate at which the planet absorbs heat.
To use Allen’s volcanic comparison, the US Geological Survey notes that “all studies to date of global volcanic carbon dioxide emissions indicate that present-day subaerial and submarine volcanoes release less than a percent of the carbon dioxide released currently by human activities.”
Mark Trail is syndicated by Hearst‘s King Features to some 175 newspapers. Allen took over the strip in 2014 after the retirement of Jack Elrod, who had been working on it since 1950. Under Elrod’s leadership, the strip was recognized for its contribution to environmental education, including by the US Forest Service, which named part of Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest the Mark Trail Wilderness in 1991.
If Allen doesn’t want to squander that legacy, he should educate himself about the reality of catastrophic climate change—and humans’ contribution to it.
Ya gotta laugh. The indignant rant above is from a mob called "FAIR" -- but their comment above is not remotely fair. The writer of the strip spoke of DAILY emissions of SO2. But FAIR purports to refute him by quoting ANNUAL emissions! Not satisfied with that, they quoted figures for CO2, which the strip-writer did not mention. If they had quoted a figure for the climate sensitivity to CO2, the figures they did give for CO2 might have had some point. But I doubt that they even know what climate sensitivity is. They just know the precepts of their Warmist religion: Complete lamebrains! But what do we expect from Warmists, I guess?