Excuse the Britishism here, but it’s appropriate: Steve Jones’ column in the Daily Telegraph yesterday is Exhibit A in showing how bloody thick journalists are when they write about environmental issues. You can waste two minutes of your life by reading the whole thing, but in summary Jones’ muddled theory is this: because nitrous oxide is so much stronger a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide we ought to be doing something to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, but – idiots that we are – we’re not. And Jones presents this theory with the smug satisfaction of a person who has long ago convinced himself that he is of vastly superior intelligence compared to the mundane rest of the human race.
Where Jones’ theory falls apart is in failing to address a little something we at the Heartland Institute call “facts”. For, the fact is that everybody has been aware that nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas and everybody has been keeping track of nitrous oxide emissions for quite some time. As a matter of fact, everyone keeps track of all of the other trace greenhouse gas emissions too, like methane, HFCs, PFCs and sulfur hexafluoride. The world has gone so global warming crazy that we know how much of each and every greenhouse gas is emitted and where it comes from. Don’t believe me? Check out the latest US Greenhouse Gas Inventory for all the remarkable detail – your tax dollars at work folks.
Readers of this blog know that I don’t believe that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases don’t affect the climate all that much. I say that as a scientist who actually understands the science involved, but no doubt Mr. Jones would dismiss me as just another “denier” in the pocket of Big Oil. And that’s kind of ironic, don’t you think? For Jones publishes this laughable column about something that every scientist – skeptics and alarmists alike – has known about and accounted for since Al Gore got his first massage and yet the man fancies himself an “expert” on the subject.
The fact is that nitrous oxide (not to be confused with nitric oxide, or nitrogen dioxide, which together are called “NOx” – a pollutant much more prevalent than nitrous oxide, but not a greenhouse gas in any way) is a powerful greenhouse gas, 310 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a matter of fact. However, there’s only about 0.3 ppm of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere so its overall effect is tiny compared to carbon dioxide and methane, and basically insignificant when we consider the big dog in the atmosphere from a global warming perspective: water vapor. Nothing to see here Steve – move along.
How does a science correspondent for a publication with a worldwide following write such rot? I suspect it’s because – like so many other writing about global warming in the MSM – he gets his “science” directly from the press releases of environmental groups. And there’s obviously no one at the Telegraph who understands the issues well enough to edit the guy. It’s a sad state of affairs, but this piece is all too representative of how bad science and environmental reporting is these days.