I had an interesting conversation today with a customer, while she was paying me to work on her horses; after delving into religion, philosophy, metaphysics, and eventually the climate, it became obvious that she was hiding her Liberal proclivities to be agreeable. She was convinced we should use natural gas and “quit digging up dinosaurs for our energy needs, there were too many humans and the world would be a better place after a massive die-off.” Her premises were pregnant with opportunities to attack, but in situations like this, it is better to have your opponent wondering about the discussion later on in the evening, while in bed and questioning the simple reasoning she had heard earlier in the day with a sense of emptiness and bewilderment.
Besides, going for the kill too early ruins the sport of the hunt and sometimes drives a customer to anger before they have a chance to put a nice tip in the check. So I led her along the proverbial primrose path and asked her if she knew of the extent of the last great Ice Age and of how much water was locked up in ice.
Like most people, her concept of glacial ice was provincial, derived from seeing glaciers in Montana or Alberta and secure in the knowledge that the Great Lakes were carved by glacier ice. I told her to imagine one third of the landmass of North America and Europe under a block of ice from east to west that was over a mile high, and with so much water frozen in the ice that sea levels were between a hundred and three hundred meters lower than they are today. I told her to imagine the coastal shorelines extended out as far as a hundred miles because of the lower sea levels.
The lowered sea levels made exploration and migration much easier for early man because many islands were exposed in the oceans, and because of the landmass connecting North America and Asia and the nearly continuous landmass between Europe and North America.
She asked if Europeans other than Vikings came to America. Yes, it has been proven by DNA samples and artifacts, Europeans were here long before Vikings sailed to pillage and conquer the coastal regions of the known world.
I told her to imagine a whole new land mass called Beringia connecting Alaska and Siberia. A vast savanna measuring over a thousand miles from north to south, that was able to support great herds of migrating animals and humans following those herds over the millennia.
I let the wild but accurate facts settle in for a minute, and asked if she knew why the ice formed or melted. She, like the scientists who understand infinitely more, didn’t have a clue.
After an appropriate dramatic pause, it was time to ask if she thought carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere might have been an influencing factor. Of course it is difficult for anyone to make that assertion while looking you in the eye.
After another moment of silence, she asked if I considered the Ice Age a justification for putting so much carbon in the atmosphere: I asked if she knew about the fundamentals of life and carbon.
I know, it is an ambiguous and rhetorical question, but like getting on a horse with a smooth predictable buck in front of gullible people, it’s an opportunity to make a point.
Remember, my subject is an intelligent lib with a predictable reading list of nonscientific journals written by men of questionable motives and with a readily discernible objective, primarily that anthropogenic global warming is more of a political issue than a scientific debate; again, like climbing on a horse with a smooth predictable buck, it is easier to impress gullible people.
My informal lecture zeroed in on carbon, an element my subject knew only by ashes from campfires and noxious fumes from the inefficient diesel engines of old style buses and semis.
“You realize, without this element we call carbon, life would not exist. Carbon is the basic building block for all tissues in plants and animals. Plant and animal tissue is composed of elements built from chains using carbon as the connecting agent, only carbon has this unique versatile ability. Carbon provides the fuels or hydrocarbons we depend on: oil, the natural gas you champion, coal, coke, gasoline and diesel. Proteins that form hair, muscles or meat, and silk are formed of carbon and elements like nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous. Hydrogen and oxygen chained with carbon compose sugar, starch, and paper.
We know of six and a half million carbon compounds, far more than any other element or all the elements put together; yet, we continue to synthesize new compounds to improve our existence. Diamonds, charcoal, graphite, and fullerene are all common carbon compounds that are commercially important and irreplaceable in modern life.
Carbon is the sixth most common element in the universe and nineteenth in order of mass within the earth’s crust. Compounds like fullerene, graphite, and diamond are fairly insignificant in concentrations within the earth’s crust, it is the carbon of other compounds that are the most common. Carbon is primarily more abundant in compounds like petroleum, natural gas, oil shale, limestone, coral, shellfish remains, and marble. The carbon compounds were deposited in the earth millions of years ago in the form of plant and animal sources, these carbon compounds were then subjected to intense pressures, and transformed through a process deemed the carbon cycle; thus, dynamic changes were formulated and continue to alter the same carbon compounds.
The process of photosynthesis yields plant tissue from carbon dioxide and sunlight in the atmosphere bonding with water from the soil. Thus plant cellulose fibers are created, energy is stored in the form of sugar, and oxygen is released into the atmosphere. Withhold any of the three ingredients and the organism or the life it represents dies.
Normally, animals and humans eat the plants, breathe oxygen to oxidize the carbohydrates or use the carbs as energy for the organism. The by-products: carbon dioxide, water, and waste products are returned to the earth to renew and be available to begin the carbon cycle once again.
Women are often fascinated by diamonds; but when you look at a diamond, you are actually looking at what may be considered a single molecule of carbon atoms, each joined to four other carbons in regular tetrahedrons or triangular prisms. The diamond’s ability to refract light along its crystal faces is a result of having a refractive index of 2.42; a property that yields the fire and brilliance of diamonds.
The second allotrope of carbon, graphite, is a series of carbon atoms joined in patterns of regular hexagons. The connective forces are relatively weak and are responsible for the lubricating properties of graphite.
Amorphous carbon is not usually considered the third allotrope because it is a form of graphite consisting of crystals. Amorphous carbons can be obtained by heating a variety of carbon materials to temperatures of 650 to 850 Celsius, (1,200 to 1,800 F), while confined within an oxygen-starved environment to prevent complete combustion. Thus wood yields charcoal, coal yields coke, and natural gas yields carbon black or lampblack and many other products including carbon electrodes.
Activated charcoal is a term everyone has heard, but few of us actually know the meaning. Discovered in the late eighteenth century, the process used charcoal to remove the brown color from sugars. A process still employed by the sugar beet industry to make their product more appealing to the average American. Foodstuffs still using the process are fats, oils, soap, gelatin, soup stocks, vinegar, and whiskey. It is also used to neutralize the poisonous gases used in war by having the activated charcoal in canisters on gas masks.
Carbon black is primarily used in the production of tires; since it increases the strength of rubber. The remainder is used in the production of printing inks, paints, lacquers, enamel, and carbon papers.
Fullerene is a hollow formation of carbon atoms that resemble the geodesic domes of one of my favorite designers, Buckminster Fuller. Scientists thought it might exist in 1985 and confirmed its existence in 1990, and efforts to synthesize the molecule known as the buckminsterfullerene or the buckyball had 60 atoms arranged in a five or six-sided molecule resembling a soccer ball. It is useful as a lubricant, superconductor, radioactive shield, hard surfacing material, batteries, and ball bearing applications. Experimentation has concluded fullerene to exist in space and in the soot residue from burning certain gases. Fullerene has since been found in natural deposits on earth that are over 600 million years old; however, fullerene is unstable in our atmosphere and natural deposits are limited.
Boron and silicon combined with carbon produce the hardest substances, yet known to man. These compounds are inert and nearly indestructible. Metallic elements like iron, cobalt, and nickel form carbides with carbon and can easily decompose with acids to form methane and hydrogen.
A common carbon atom is composed of six protons and six neutrons to form a nucleus. Thus the atom is known as C-12. C-13 or carbon-13 has six protons and seven neutrons. These inhabit our world in great abundance, approximately 98.89% and 1.11% respectively in natural sources. In the atmosphere the speeding neutrons from cosmic rays keep smacking nitrogen atoms N-14 with seven protons and seven neutrons, driving a proton from the nucleus and replacing it to form an atom of carbon with six protons or 14 particles (six protons and eight neutrons) in the nucleus, it becomes C-14.
This state of carbon decays or deteriorates radioactively and the production and decay of C-12 and C-14 remain in equilibrium or the same ratio for carbon dioxide. Chemically, the two form are the same and plants make no distinction as they consume the two atoms at rhe same rate.
Organic materials from antiquity are not involved with carbon exchanges from the atmosphere. The C-12 levels at death remain constant, but C-14 decays through radioactivity and a ratio can be established to date artifacts through the method commonly known as Carbon-14 dating.”
My overview of Carbon properties had my customer looking lost and bewildered. She considered carbon to be an enemy of mankind, not an integral part of everyday life.
The Left is responsible for this designation of carbon as an enemy to mankind and they have many people scared out of their wits, by claiming that carbon will cause cancer and it is present in cancer formations. We are left with a rhetorical statement, since no organic material can exist without carbon, how can cancer, an irregular organic growth, not have carbon present.
Without the simple carbon cycle, earth becomes a sterile planet devoid of all life. That is not to say breathing tobacco smoke non-stop, working over a poorly ventilated coal forge for years, or breathing the noxious fumes from the old fashioned diesel engines are not harmful, but most chemicals in concentrated form will kill you in time.
It is imperative to become familiar with the properties of carbon, its cycle of life, and its many uses to combat the politicizing of a theory and the parroting of hyperbole by uninformed and often hysterical people.
epilogue: This is a rudimentary overview of organic chemistry, written to help the interested reader become more familiar with carbon. It is a silly waste of time to listen to wild eyed fanatics decrying the evils of carbon when they know nothing of the element or its compounds. Being familiar with carbon will enable you to disarm the Gore sycophants with relative ease.