Reversing Climate Change — By The Numbers

G.S. Muse
19 min readAug 14, 2023

As a scientist, I have a lot of concerns about the discussions surrounding “Climate Change.” In this article, my goal is to discuss Climate Change in terms of data and numbers, and to discuss practical solutions to minimize negative human impact in this area. But before I get into the numbers, I need to address the framing of this topic, and how it’s been presented with assumptions that are not necessarily logically valid.

Science VS Activism

My first concern is how heavily politicized this topic has become. When I think of Climate Change, I typically think of Al Gore or Greta Thunberg. It seems like I rarely ever see an actual scientist give a presentation on why I should believe that humans are causing catastrophic shifts in the climate.

When I do hear a scientist give a talk on Climate Change, catastrophic human-made Climate Change is considered a given. I see a presentation where X bad thing is happening, and because X is happening, it must be due to Climate Change. But I never hear why I should believe that said hurricane, or coral bleaching, or forest fires, or earthquakes are caused by an incredibly small increase in global average temperatures.

Atmospheric Physicist Dr. Richard Lindzen of MIT explains why much of what we are told about Climate Change in the media is not supported by the data or by the majority of scientists.

Climate Change: What Do Scientists Say?

Climate Change: What Do Scientists Say? | PragerU
Richard Lindzen, emeritus professor of meteorology at MIT

According to NOAA, the Earth’s average temperature has increased by around 2° F since 1880. This was of course not long after the end of The Little Ice Age, which raises the question of how much of that two degrees was natural and how much was the result of human activity.

Climate Change: Global Temperature | NOAA Climate.gov

We are told that the Earth is significantly warming, that this warming is caused by human industrial activity, and that the warming is going to be catastrophic in its result. But rather than proving these connections, they are treated as a given.

The arguments typically boil down to “These bad things are happening, so it must be Climate Change.” This is an argument that I satirically addressed in a previous article.

Some readers at this point may want to dismiss my article out of hand. After all, we’ve all heard claims to the effect that there were fewer hurricanes in the 1800s than the 2000s. But observations like that, even if true, fail to take into account the fact that humans were no doubt better at counting and recording hurricanes in the age of satellites than they were in pre-industrial societies. It also begs the question as to the cause. Merely pointing to the destruction of a hurricane is not evidence for Climate Change. Evidence and tragedy are not the same thing.

(There is an irony here in that the industrial era made it possible to create the satellites that we use to count hurricanes in the first place.)

The Real Climate Crisis — Alex Epstein

As for coral bleaching, I’ve watched entire documentaries that blame the problem entirely on Climate Change, while ignoring other factors, such as toxic sunscreen and pollution. They show B and assert A, but do not prove that A resulted in B. This political-emotional approach amounts to propaganda rather than a rational and scientific approach.

These presentations show bleached coral reefs, but that in and of itself does not prove that Climate Change is the cause. It may be the result of a complex interplay of a number of factors. Some of this could be from humans, and some of it could be natural. As someone with a clinical background, I might want to look for a pathogenic cause, such as a virus or bacteria.

The question is not “What do I think makes sense?” or “What do I feel?” but “What can you prove through systematic scientific investigation and presentation of data?”

There are a lot of things that could cause coral to bleach. After all, coral is a very sensitive organism. Perhaps coral bleaching is 40% one thing, 30% something else, 10% a third thing, etc.

TED Talk Why I still have hope for coral reefs | Kristen Marhaver

If you want to claim that Climate Change is the main cause, you need to present evidence to back up that claim. But even if Climate Change is the primary cause, it may be more practical to address other lesser causes, and this may be enough to prevent coral bleaching even given a slight increase in temperature.

But when I watch presentations, what I see is “Climate Change is causing coral bleaching. The World is ending. Take my word for it. Vote for my guy.”

As a scientist, it surprises me to see people jumping to conclusions like this and expecting me to accept the word of a scientist on blind faith. I did very well while studying for my degrees, and I’ve spent a number of years working in various labs. So why do I have to accept the word of anther scientist just because they are on TV?

I am open to learning about evidence that I was not aware of. No one knows everything there is to know, and scientists are no exception.

50 Years Since Apollo 11 — But Why Do Liberals and Conservatives Hate Industrial Progress? — For The New Christian Intellectual

Scientific Skepticism

The proper position of a scientist is to be an open-minded skeptic. He or she should not just accept something like this on blind faith, nor should he or she dismiss these claims based on personal incredulity.

As one biologist pointed out, the question is not “Do you believe in Bigfoot?” Waking up one day and saying that you’ve decided you like/don’t like or find Bigfoot silly does not determine whether Bigfoot is real. Instead, this biologist said that the proper question as a scientist is “What evidence do you have for Bigfoot?”

This is how I approach questions about Bigfoot, healing crystals, medical studies, and Climate Change.

The question is not whether I believe or don’t believe in “the thing,” the question is “What evidence do you have for [the thing]?”

A proper scientist is not a mystic who embraces nice ideas uncritically, nor is he a materialist who dismisses “silly” claims out of hand. He approaches claims to a cure for cancer based on evidence and does the same for ghosts in the attic and fairies in the garden. But not all mystics are witch doctors. In modern times there are also materialistic mystics, such as Richard Dawkins, who ignore evidence when it contradicts preconceived perceptions.

Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox | The God Delusion Debate

The bottom line here is to approach all things based on fact, evidence and rationality. I do not accept or reject things based on blind faith, personal incredulity, or an appeal to authority. I approach all things based on scientific reasoning, and Climate Change is no exception.

Reframing The Argument

Many of the major problems with even having a rational scientific discussion about “Climate Change” is the framing of the arguments. Even the phrase is minimalistic and noncommittal. Do you believe that the climate is changing? Well, yeah, probably. It’s unlikely that something as big as the climate would remain exactly the same all the time. Do you believe that humans have caused the climate to change? Well, probably, it would be unlikely that our impact on the climate would be zero.

Yet the fact that humans probably have some impact is equated with Climate Apocalypse. Am I allowed to say that humans are probably having both good and bad impacts on the climate, while also remaining scientifically skeptical of the fire-and-brimstone beachfront billionaires?

50 Years Since Apollo 11 — But Why Do Liberals and Conservatives Hate Industrial Progress?

Practical philosopher Alex Epstein points out that we are constantly told about the negatives with regard to fossils fuels and nuclear power, and only the positives when it comes to wind and solar. But Epstein points out that if we are to be objective about energy, then we need to look at both the positives and the negatives of each type of energy.

Epstein’s demonstration of a proper cost-benefit analysis when it comes to technology has been one of the best insights I’ve seen in my scientific career.

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels — Alex Epstein at Google

Epstein argues that fossil fuels are a moral good with exaggerated, but very real, side-effects. Fossil fuels make the modern world with its incredible industry and technology possible. Banning fossil fuels would be like banning vaccines and antibiotics simply because they can have side effects. True, some people are allergic to penicillin, but the world is far better with penicillin than without.

The narrative we are constantly fed in the media wreaks of the stereotypical used-car salesmen trying to sell me their form of energy. Anyone who expresses rational scientific skepticism is accused of being paid by the Oil Industry, but those who want to give large subsidies to the Wind and Solar industries are sinless saints.

FrackNation (Phelim McAleer) — CATO Institute

Epstein also points out that we are never told about the well documented positive side effects of increased CO2. We are constantly told about Climate Change (formerly referred to as Global Warming) but we are never told about the well documented phenomenon known as Global Greening.

Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds | NASA

It’s a well-established scientific fact that the increase in CO2 has caused an increase in plant growth around the world. Considering how CO2 is a scarce resource in many ecosystems (such as tropical regions) plants (such as corn) have adaptations to capture and retain as much CO2 as possible. So it’s no surprise that an increase in CO2 would cause an increase in plant growth.

Yaron Brook Interviews Alex Epstein

Epstein also points out that many climate activists have made apocalyptic predictions for decades, predictions that have objectively been falsified. These include top activist scientists claiming that the U.K. would be gone by the year 2000.

Climate Change, Narratives and Solutions

For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume the standard media narrative: Climate Change is mostly negative, caused by humans, and primarily caused by the release of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels. If we want to prevent the negative effects of Climate Change, (based on the narrative) we must reduce our release of atmospheric CO2.

While I am skeptical of the apocalyptic claims (along with most of the narrative), I can look at the numbers, not just as a scientist, but as a generally education rational person who can perform basic math.

Given the fact that Earth has had much higher levels of CO2 in past eras, I don’t think that an increase in CO2 will necessarily cause the world to end. What we see in modern times is a relatively low value. So, I am not going to try and defend “Net Zero” — the idea that humans can or should have zero impact on atmospheric CO2.

That said, I do think that halving our CO2 release is potentially doable and would potentially negate most of the negative impacts of Climate Change. A slower rate of release may give plants and ecosystems the opportunity to better adjust to a changing world.

So, let’s look at the numbers…

Breaking Down the Numbers

According to NASA, in 2014, 35 billion metric tons of CO2 were released due to the burning of fossil fuels. This is very close to estimates I received from ChatGPT, “As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the global CO2 emissions from human activities were estimated to be around 36 billion metric tons per year.”

ChatGPT also estimates that living things release around “440 billion metric tons” every year, but then living things absorb CO2 at about the same rate that it is released. I wanted to take a look at this for context to consider biological solutions which I will talk about later on.

ChatGPT estimates that coal power represents almost half of all of the CO2 released by humans.

“As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, all coal power plants globally were estimated to emit around 15 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. This estimation considers the cumulative emissions from coal-fired power plants across different countries and regions.”

This brings me to the first solution for addressing Climate Change by the numbers.

Nuclear Power

So-called “green” activists have targeted nuclear power for a very long time. They often exploit fear that has resulted from high-profile nuclear incidents. Yet a lot of what has historically been claimed by green activists is misleading or simply false information.

The reality is that nuclear power is the cleanest, cheapest and safest form of energy that humans have access to. The problem is that people are scared of it, because they don’t understand it, and “green” activists have caused a lot of harm in this area.

TED Talk, How fear of nuclear power is hurting the environment | Michael Shellenberger

As nuclear physicist Elina Charatsidou points out, Greenpeace puts out information calling nuclear power plants “nukes” — a term typically used to refer to nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Physicist DEBUNKS Greenpeace Nuclear Energy LIES —
Elina Charatsidou

A comprehensive discussion of nuclear power is beyond the scope of this article however I encourage readers to learn the facts about nuclear energy from scientists and engineers who are experts in this topic and compare that to the presentations given by activists.

My proposal is not to replace all coal power plants with nuclear plants overnight. That would be too much of an undertaking. What we have now is a situation where both governments and the general public are afraid of nuclear power, but that fear is unjustified. With more education, I think that rational free-market policies can be put in place that would allow private companies to build nuclear power plants.

Thomas Sowell: Global Warming Manufactured by Intellectuals?

Given a free market, I am betting that nuclear power plants could replace 90% of coal power plants within 15–20 years. Government would not have to build the new power plants they would just have to move out of the way and create an environment where businesses can flourish.

As a result, new research into nuclear power in the private sector would be encouraged. This scenario would provide cheap and abundant energy not just to those of us in the West, but also those in the developing and poor parts of the world as well.

If 90% of 15 billion tons of CO2 could be replaced by nuclear power, then that would be 13.5 billion tons less than what we would otherwise have produced per year. 13.5/36 = 37.5% (Without trying to round to significant figures.) Already, we would only be releasing 62.5% of our previous CO2 levels.

So, we have to find a 12.5% reduction (4.5 billion tons) to meet our goal of 50%, which is not too bad.

With more nuclear power generating electricity, this would no doubt begin to supplement fossil fuels in other areas (e.g. electric cars, trucks and trains).

Please note, that even though for the sake of this article we are playing with numbers, nuclear power has the potential to provide far MORE energy than what we can produce today. From the basic principles of economics, more energy production naturally leads to more prosperity with all other things being equal in a free market. That could make the difference between poverty and wealth for billions of people.

But let’s keep going with these numbers.

Planting Forests and Herding Cattle

One of the obvious ways to reduce CO2 is to plant trees. The question is, how many?

There are a TON of calculations that would have to go into answering a question like this. A forest is a complex ecosystem with a lot of complex interactions. What kind of trees? How old? How dense of a forest? There are a lot of questions to answer here. At first, I turned to ChatGPT, but kept getting weird and contradictory answers.

Fortunately, the journal Nature had a straightforward answer in terms of bamboo (which is technically a grass but absorbs a lot of CO2).

On an average, one hectare of bamboo stands absorbs about 17 tonnes of carbon per year. However, the biomass production and the carbon-storing potential of the Indian bamboos are largely unexplored.
- Nature India, Bamboo plants can act as efficient carbon sinks (nature.com)

Based on these figures (and using ChatGPT to calculate) this means that in order to absorb 10 billion tons of CO2, one would need 160,358,552 hectares of land. For 4.5 billion tons: 72,251,822 hectares. For comparison, the Sahara Desert is approximately 920 million hectares in size and the United States is approximately 980 million hectares.

72 million hectares is a lot, but I am willing to bet that it is doable.

I also had ChatGPT estimate how many hectares would be needed to absorb 4.5 billion (metric) tons of CO2 with other plants. The following table was generated.

+ — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -+
| Estimated Carbon Sequestration Using Different Plants and Crops |
| (Annual CO2 Absorption in Metric Tons) for 4.5 Billion Tons of CO2 |
+ — — — — — — — — — -+ — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -+ — — — — — — — — — -+
| Plant/Crop | CO2 Absorption per Hectare | Land Area Needed |
| | (metric tons of CO2/year) | (hectares) |
+ — — — — — — — — — -+ — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -+ — — — — — — — — — -+
| Trees | Approximately 36.7 | Approx. 122,634,796|
| Switchgrass | Approximately 14.7 | Approx. 306,122,449|
| Corn | Approximately 3.67 | Approx. 1,227,642,276|
| Kelp (Seaweed) | Approximately 73.4 | Approx. 61,385,246 |
+ — — — — — — — — — -+ — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -+ — — — — — — — — — -+

How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change | Allan Savory

Allan Savory has an amazing TED Talk in which he talks about using cattle to turn large areas of land from desert to green, simply by herding cattle across the landscape. By taking herds of cattle, and moving them across a barren landscape, the animals eat grass, help to pack down the earth, and urinate/defecate, and the combination of these things helps the earth to absorb water, which allows plants to flourish.

These animals walk across the earth and turn a barren landscape into a lush garden. This cattle phenomenon sounds like something from a fairytale unicorn, except that this is real life. I want to point out that if we acted with personal incredulity, we might have dismissed this scientific phenomenon that sounds almost like magic. But there it is in a TED Talk.

So this opens the question: How many hectares could people convert using this phenomenon?

Fracking

Natural gas and fracking have resulted in reduced CO2 emissions, a fact that activists don’t seem to be aware of. Initially, I wasn’t going to go into this, but then I saw the actual numbers and was floored!

The following graph originally came from Statistica.com, followed by a quote from Ron Miller of Energy Central.

If we ignore the year 2020, due to lockdowns, an “eyeball” estimate shows the level of CO2 emissions in the United States being reduced by around one billion metric tons per year, whereas before the rate was increasing. This reduction in emissions was due to fracking.

Graph source here

Since 2008, spikes in U.S. natural gas prices have been dampened to reflect a more stable and dependable gas pricing mechanism due to fracking. A more stable natural gas price since 2008 has incented the retirement of coal plants, thus reducing CO2 emissions.

“How Fracking Has Contributed To U.S. CO2 Emission Reductions” | Energy Central

Considering our original figure of 36 billion metric tons, reversing the increase in rate of CO2 emissions with fracking technology, and then decreasing the rate by 1 billion tons is already incredible! But this is only one country, the United States.

Imagine the impact this technology could have around the world.

Sadly, the Biden Administration, American Democrats and Global Elites are trying to outlaw natural gas. This has to do with the obsession with reducing CO2 emissions to zero, while flying around in private jets.

On the Fox Business Network, Journalist Phelim McAleer Debunks Claims Made in Gasland

I’m all for reducing CO2 emissions using free market solutions. My personal political preference is not to take life-saving energy away from billions of people. But I guess we all differ on our personal political preferences.

Fracking is a major part of the solution to reducing CO2 emissions, but it’s not the final solution that certain people in power want.

Fracknation — Full Documentary

Preventing Genocide

For a lot of people, the only acceptable solution is to move 100% of electricity production to wind and solar (as if windmills and solar panels magically appear on their own) and to prevent over a billion Africans from using fossil fuels, which are desperately needed to rise out of poverty.

How Black Lives Truly Matter | Magatte Wade | EP 271

This narrative that the world must move to 100% “renewables” and create a “Net Zero” level of emissions within a few years is clearly not justified by the evidence. Along with this narrative, there is a major push to prevent Africans in-particular from using fossil fuel technology, which they so desperately need.

I heard one story about a newborn baby in an African hospital who needed to be placed in an incubator, but because the hospital could only afford to run the generator for a few hours a day, this little baby died. Had she been born in America, Germany, or South Korea, she would have lived, thanks to the abundance of wealth and technology that fossil fuels provide. I believe this story came from one of Alex Epstein’s books, but I may be mistaken.

Even if the nearest power plant was nuclear, much of the materials and equipment we see in hospitals is derived from oil, and it’s hard to overemphasize how much of the economy — think energy, medicine, and production of everyday items, is dependent on oil. Oil is what makes much of the modern world possible.

It’s not that we are “addicted” to oil, it’s that we fail to appreciate how much we are capable of thanks to oil.

Alex Epstein points out that as a result of fossil fuels, there are far fewer climate-related deaths now than there were 100 years ago, and the number has been dropping like a stone for a long time. Even with a slight increase in temperature, fossil fuels provide us with not just the energy, but also the materials we need to master our environments.

Imagine trying to save endangered species in a world without reliable energy. This is the difference between being able to create and maintain an elephant preserve with a full staff, versus having to scrape in the dirt with sticks to grow enough corn to barely escape starvation.

In Bible movies, we typically see men walking around the desert with robes and flip flops. They had to work all day to earn enough money for their daily bread. That is why we pray for our “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer. This lifestyle of subsistence farming was the norm even in the West until the 1800’s. The difference between the year 1800 and the year 2000 is in very large part due to Rockefeller and the development of fossil fuel technology. (Rockefeller was a God-fearing Baptist. God has provided us with our daily bread, and so much more!)

Cheap, reliable energy is the difference between life and death for billions of people. Forcing billions of people to give up fossil fuels is no small thing. The end result would be the murder of hundreds of millions of people, if not more.

New Research, Technology and a Free Market

Assuming that our goal is to have cleaner, cheaper and more reliable forms of energy, we are going to need a ton of research and development, many tons in fact. Some of this could be new computers, new forms of batteries, better solar panels, cheaper electric cars, stronger and lighter materials — such as graphene, etc.

Presumably, an automobile with a lighter and stronger graphene frame would also be more fuel efficient.

Why graphene hasn’t taken over the world…yet — Verge Science

I’ve spent quite a few years reading economics textbooks, and the main lesson I keep coming away with is that if you want people to be prosperous the best thing you can do is have a total free market. If someone wants to open up a coffee shop in their own property, providing people with coffee, cakes and jobs, then it’s best to have as little government interference as possible. The only time the government should be involved is if someone’s rights are being violated — someone wasn’t paid the agreed amount, or someone tries to steal from the place of business etc. It’s not the role of government to dictate how much a cup of coffee can or cannot cost, that is the place of the business owner making a deal with the free market.

If I want to buy a cup of coffee, the government should only intervene in situations involving force, fraud or coercion. It’s not the place of government to dictate how much sugar I can drink or how much I can charge for a cup of coffee, and people should be free to buy it or not.

In the same way as the free-market coffee shop produces good coffee and stands or falls on its own merits, tech companies should be allowed to innovate and produce research and development without government interference, as long as they are not violating the rights of the individual. (Violations can include dumping toxic waste into the ocean etc.)

Most innovation happens when people are free to innovate and reap the rewards of their own business. This is why, in one of my earliest articles, I argued that businesses should not be taxed.

I look forward to a future when I hop into a hybrid automobile with graphene solar panels on the frame, charging the battery that powers the engine and the AI computer system that drives me cross-country as I look out the window into the cactus and bamboo fields, which are artificially irrigated by the desalination plant powered by the mini nuclear reactor.

I would rather have that future of widespread prosperity than one where government overlords regulate natural gas and cow farts while shedding a tear at the world from the safety of their private jets.

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G.S. Muse

G.S. Muse, also known as GreenSlugg on YouTube or simply as “Greg” is a lab technician, youtuber, author, and blogger. His work can be found at GreenSlugg.com