Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. And for today’s first featured guest we check in to last week’s At the Crossroads event in Austin, Texas where our own Barbara Denson interviewed Dr. Patrick Moore, author and founding member of Greenpeace, for The EnergyMakers Show.
Barbara: I’m pleased to have as my guest Dr. Patrick Moore who is one of the original founding members of Greenpeace and he has evolved his career over time and I have found him here today at the At the Crossroads Energy Summit. And he just gave a fantastic presentation and I was so enthralled I wanted to talk to you more about it because it was fantastic what you had to say, so thank you for your time today.
Patrick: Thanks, nice to be with you.
Barbara: Thanks. Well tell me about the transition you’ve gone through in your life; it’s an amazing story actually.
Patrick: Well I grew up in the deep woods of Northern Vancouver Island by the Pacific Ocean with no road to my floating village and so I developed an innate love of nature at a really early age fishing off the dock and out in my boat and in the forest. And then I ended up being sent away to boarding school in Vancouver at age 14 where I learned science, I excelled in science. And at the University of British Colombia I entered a PhD in Ecology eventually after studying Life Science all those years and this was before the word ecology was actually known to the general public.
I soon became radicalized; it was the height of the Cold War, the height of the Vietnam War and the threat of all out nuclear war and the newly emerging consciousness of the environment. So I became a radical environmental activist kind of hippie and joined a little group in a church basement and we sailed a boat across the Pacific to protest U.S. hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska, and we became Greenpeace in 1971.
Barbara: So you had great intentions and had some wonderful results from that, but then things changed.
Patrick: Well I was in the leadership actually for 15 years as we went on to stop French atmospheric nuclear testing in the South Pacific, to save the whales from the Soviet and Japanese factor whaling fleets on the high seas; to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby seals every year. And then into the toxic campaign; air, water, land, fighting around the world to clean up the pollution and we had great success there too. But by the time I left in 1986 the environmental movement, including my Greenpeace, had evolved from a humanitarian approach to environmentalism – saving civilization from nuclear war – to characterizing humans as the enemies of the earth and I could not buy in to that.
We are part of nature, we evolved from nature; we’re not separate from nature and teaching our children that is a terrible thing to do, as if we’re some alien from Mars or something with evil intentions to destroy the planet. That is not the human species. The human species is part of this life on Earth and most of us have good intentions with what we’re doing and most of want to what we can to make the environment cleaner and the earth safer and a better place for people to live. Over the years we’ve made great progress on all those fronts and so I have a much more positive approach to environmentalism than I think many of the environmental movements do today.
Barbara: Well you obviously have a very kind heart and you mean the best things for the world and humanity in general. It’s fascinating though you’re obviously enough of a scientist that you really dig into what’s true; so many scientists seem to – they have their hypothesis and go back and adjust things but you seem to be one that’s really looking deep into the facts and what’s real.
Patrick: Well I saw the environmental movement evolve from being focused on science to a large degree – I mean the threat of all out nuclear war was real and the toxic waste being dumped into the environment was real and still is in many countries like China and India where they’ve got a long way to go to clean it up – but even they are beginning to see the light and to move in those directions. But when I left Greenpeace I saw a movement that had basically been corrupted into focusing on misinformation, sensationalism, anti-humanism and fear and I had to leave for those reasons.
And I vowed to create an environmental policy that was based squarely on science and logic. Science informs the logical process – the reasoning process – and the reasoning process determines the policies that should be adopted from understanding the true science behind what’s actually going on from observable facts in this real world. And so much of environmentalism today is just made up out of thin air; ocean acidification is a complete fabrication, the mass extinction of species is not actually occurring on this planet.
As a matter of fact we’re saving more species from extinction now than we ever have in our history because we’ve become aware of this situation and we care. People didn’t care about species extinction 200 years ago except the odd naturalist maybe but the general public didn’t care. Today people do. And the climate issue is the worst one of all.
Barbara: Well that’s what I wanted to hear is your perspective on how CO2 has affected the climate.
Patrick: Well CO2 has affected the climate; as a matter of fact it’s the intellectual climate that concerns me. I sum it up by saying I fear an intellectual gulag with Greenpeace as my prison guards because I hate to use the word but the bastardization of science, which is occurring today as a result of the climate subject, is the death of the enlightenment if we don’t do something about it. We have the most important food for life on Earth – carbon dioxide – being depicted as a pollutant – as a dangerous gas – and carbon being demonized as death.
James Hanson says coal trains are death trains; actually coal trains are taking coal to be burned to provide light and power and energy for our civilization every day and at the same time putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is sorely needed for the growth of our crops and forests. Which was being depleted gradually, gradually, gradually over the millennia to where it had come to such a low point that during the last glaciation when the seas were cold and absorbed more CO2 than normal there was hardly enough CO2 in the air for life to exist on this earth. Plants require 150 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the same way we require 30% oxygen in the atmosphere. If you go down to 20% oxygen it starts getting hard to breathe and at 5% we die.
And it’s the same for plants with carbon dioxide because that’s their food and in fact plants are the food for al life on Earth because they’re the ones that make the original sugars which is the energy that drives the entire food chain, including ourselves.
And so for people to take the most important food for all life on Earth, the stuff of life, the currency of life, and turn it into a toxic pollutant is probably the worst thing that has happened to science since Galileo, since Copernicus; since even more recently – not many people in the west know this – but Lysenko under Stalin sent geneticists to the gulag for 35 years in Russia because they rejected Mendelian Genetics. It was against the Marxist principles and they turned science into ideology in the same way that the climate alarmists are turning science into ideology in the climate argument.
Barbara: You shared some really interesting graphs showing the dramatic decline in CO2 and it was pretty clear from that that by putting the CO2 in we’re really saving the planet which is interesting, that’s not what you tend to hear these days.
Patrick: Well people’s historic timeline is generally when they had their first memories like 30, 40, 50 years ago. Like this planet is 3.5 billion years old and a lot has happened during that time. So we look at just the last hundred years where humans have caused a slight increase in the CO2 in the atmosphere, but even that increase up to 400 parts per million is still extremely low compared to where it’s been through most of the history of life, 3, 4, or 5 thousand parts per million, when life flourished during all these warmer ages than we have now; when both the poles were sub-tropical, when giant camels juts 3.5 million years ago – that’s like a blink in nature’s eye – 3.5 million years ago giant camels roamed in sub-tropical forests in the Canadian Arctic Islands.
Antarctica was forested just 30 million years ago; there were no glaciers or ice. So for most of the history of life there’s been no ice on the poles but now we think that because there is ice on the poles in this Pleistocene Ice Age – which in the Northern Hemisphere only came on 2.5 million years ago, again juts a blink in geological time – but we think now that it would be unusual for there not to be any ice on the poles when in fact what’s unusual is for there to be all this ice on the poles.
That’s not the norm in the history of life or the history of the earth. So getting a sense of geologic history, that’s why the Earth Scientists, the Geologists and the Astrophysicists – people who study the universe and the earth in long term as the 3.5 billion year history that it’s been here – they have a much different perspective on this whole issue of climate than people who think it in tens of years or even hundreds of years; that’s about as big a time scale as the alarmists are interested in. They’re not interested in what happened in the far past.
Barbara: So did I hear you correctly then, that you believe life would be better with more CO2?
Patrick: There’s absolutely no doubt about it because at the present time plants on the entire earth are still starved for CO2. In Ecology there’s a term called limiting factors and a limiting factor is a factor that is reducing the growth of plants because there isn’t enough of it compared to the other nutrients; so Potassium could be a limiting factor, Nitrogen can be a limiting factor, but right now the biggest limiting factor in the whole of the plants’ growth all around the world is carbon dioxide. Because if you doubled carbon dioxide from what it is today you would get like a 50% increase in average growth of all of plant life on Earth, which is a massive number. And that includes all our food crops and all our forests as well as all the wild plants in the world and all the food for all the wild animals in the world, which is plants.
So it boggles the mind that on the one hand we have no evidence that CO2 is actually causing any increase in temperature of the planet – which would actually be a good thing, a couple of degrees Celsius and more because the earth has been much warmer than it is today and all the species who are here today obviously their ancestors survived through those warm periods. Like many species have been weeded out through the Millennia, those are species that couldn’t stand the changes that came about. We’re the tough ones the ones that are here today; you know, all the 1.75 million known species on Earth today, their ancestors all came through everything that nature has had to throw at them for 3.5 billion years.
Because every single one of us – every plant, every insect, every human – is an unbreakable chain of reproduction since the beginning of life, every one of us, so if that’s the truth then obviously there was an unbroken chain right to all of us and every other individual living thing on Earth today since the beginning of life.
And therefore, through all the ice ages and all the hot ages, all the cataclysms and the meteors hitting the earth and all the other things that have happened through time, we made it through; so we are the hardcore that have come through and had the test of time and the test of trial of all these different changes that have occurred in the environment over the millennia. And so I think we can stand another 2 degrees in temperature on this planet, yet they act as though that’s going to be the end of civilization.
Barbara: It’s CO2 – the lack thereof – that may be the end.
Patrick: Exactly and as I pointed out today the last 150 million years – forget about what was before that, that was a whole other story and lots of stories there – but since its peak 150 million years ago, one of the peaks of CO2 that occurred, since that peak there has been a steady downward trend of 150 million years. I calculated that it is 37,000 tons net loss of CO2 from the global atmosphere each year on average for 150 million years. If you extrapolate that into the future it comes down to 150 parts per million in the absence of human emissions. It comes down to 150 parts per million in 1.75 million years, which is the death of plants.
Now 1.75 million years compared to the 3.5 billion year history of life means that we have come along and started putting some of the CO2 back into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, all of which represents CO2 that was taken out of the atmosphere and stored in the ground in the first place by the growth of plants, mostly by trees and in the sea by plankton. We’re putting some of that back in the atmosphere to re-fertilize the atmosphere which was becoming close to starvation levels of CO2. And that represent means that we’ve come along at 37 seconds to midnight if you take the atomic clock metaphor and say that it’s been 24 hours since life emerged on the planet.
Barbara: So fossil fuels are saving the planet.
Patrick: Fossil fuels are basically the salvation of life on Earth in terms of putting some of the carbon back. There’s no other species besides humans that could have come along and got those fossil fuels back out of the ground and repatriated the carbon to the atmosphere where it came from in the first place. So it’s ironic in the extreme that life itself…
Barbara: Finds a way.
Patrick: Well no – well that’s not ironic, that’s to be celebrated; that’s celebratory – but the ironic part is that life itself was creating its own demise by eating up all its own food and not putting any back. The carbon cycle wasn’t actually working properly; now we are coming along and once again making the carbon cycle into a more balanced cycle.
Barbara: Well thank you, you make a very compelling case. This was wonderful to hear, I enjoyed your time. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us today Patrick, I really appreciate your time.
Patrick: Thank you Barbara.
Russ: All right, and that wraps up our interview with Dr. Patrick Moore, author and founding member of Greenpeace. And this is The BusinessMakers Show brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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