Dumb Things Deniers Say: CO2 Is Good for You

Posted on May 26, 2010



Simple Sam is dumb some times, as you would expect, and he says dumb things.  And finding that not enough, he finds dumb things that other people have said and repeats them.  For instance, the other day he found a particularly dumb statement by professional climate change denier Richard Lindzen, and shared it with me.

(We met Lindzen before in Simple Sam & the Three Deniers.)

“CO2 is not the enemy,” says Sam.  “CO2 is good for plants.  It helps them grow.”

That’s true, Sam.  Plants grow out of the air more than they grow out of the soil.  And the carbon dioxide in the air is one of their main ingredients.  So putting more carbon dioxide in the air can actually help plants to grow.  But you know that simply increasing one ingredient can only have limited effect, don’t you?–Here try my lemonade.

“What’s that?  That’s terrible lemonade,” says Sam, making a face.

That’s because I just took what lemonade I had and added twice as much water.

“It needs more sugar and lemons,” says Sam, with a wrinkled nose.

That’s right, Sam.  And what my example is telling you is that you can’t really make more lemonade just by adding more of one ingredient.  And likewise, simply adding more CO2 to the air will help plants grow only up to the point where the other things that plants need are available.  Plant nutrients in the soil, for instance.  The availability of these other ingredients sets a natural limit to any positive effects.

However the negative effects of carbon dioxide don’t have any natural limit that we can rely on…—But I can see by the stubborn look on your face that you’re not buying it, Sam.

“If something is good for you, then having more won’t hurt you,” he says.

Ah, Sam, I think you need some salt peanuts.

Sam takes a peanut, but only one.  I don’t think he really trusts me.  “Thank you,” he says, warily.

Have a handful, Sam.  They are perfectly good salt peanuts.

“Okay, thank you.”

Take another handful, Sam.  I’ve got lots.

“Um, yes.  But you wouldn’t happen to have a glass of water, would you?”

Would water be good right now, Sam?

“Yes,” says Sam.

Here, hold this glass and stand here.

“Why have you brought us to the bottom of this empty swimming pool?” asks Sam.

Stand there with the glass, Sam.  I’m going to fill it.

“How are you going to fill it?” asks Sam.

By filling the swimming pool, Sam.

Sam opens his eyes very wide.  “But I can’t swim,” he says.  “I’ll drown.”

Water is good for you, Sam.

“Didn’t you hear me?” says Sam, with a rising pitch to his voice.  “I’ll drown!”

But didn’t you say that if something is good for you, more is better?

“I’ll drown,” says Sam, getting distinctly repetitive.

But having more won’t hurt you.  Isn’t that what you said, Sam?

“All right, all right.  It was dumb,” says Sam.  “Now turn off that water.  Let me out of this pool.”

Even though water is good for you, Sam?

“I told you it was dumb.  It was a dumb thing to say.  Richard Lindzen said a dumb thing,” says Sam.  “Now please, please, let me out, and stop that water.”

Sure, Sam.

Wouldn’t want to ruin your famous clop-clop slippers or anything.


OUR LESSON TODAY:  Just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean you can’t drown in it.


Posted in: climate change