You know…mister…president.

I’m going to say something about climate change, because, ehm, actually, you don’t get it.

Honestly.

I haven’t heard all you’ve said about the topic, but a little. Some politicians here, I think, say fairly the same.

You talk about clean air, the best water etc, that you want that and at the same time a strong economy, industry etc.

I don’t know if you keep those promises or whether those things always go easily together, but obviously, they are important.

You’re 76.

I am 55, and I was an environmental activist when I was a teenager, in the 70s and 80s. 

Climate change was not an issue then, but pollution definitely was. There was sulphur dioxide coming in over Norway from Britain, and from the European continent, the rain contained this stuff, it made the lakes here sour and the fish died.

There were local problems.

Stuff like that.

Pollution.

I don’t know whether all those problems are solved by now in our part of the world, but everywhere I think practically everybody knows that you can’t just dump waste in nature, or let out stuff into the air, if you do it, it will have some consequences in nature, of some kind, and of course consequences for us, humans, as well, in the end.

There were people talking, back then, about pollution, the way some talk about climate change today.

The way you talk about it, perhaps. 

I think, basically, they did not believe that it was a global problem or a general problem. They had done what they did for a long time, others before them, and they couldn’t understand that they couldn’t go on with it. 

But we obviously managed to convince you and your generation about those things.

Or you convinced yourself. Anyway, the things were what they were.

The reason this became a problem that we had to solve, that it was not any more only a local problem, must have been that the size of the industry increased, along with, of course, the number of people.

Few people, little production, simple technology, less problems of this kind. 

You burn your garbage somewhere and no one cares, because there is not so much garbage and not so many people.

The growth in wealth leads to problems, actually, but also the growth in creating that wealth in more complicated ways, with more technology, more fuel, more processes, etc.

Producing more stuff, sometimes of better quality, sometimes not, but of course, filling stomachs and making people a little more relaxed when it came to the issue of poverty.

But this, the CO2 thing, is not really about pollution.

CO2 has always been there.

It is a gas that we breathe out, as you know. The plants take them in etc. 

Everybody knows that. I don’t know who discovered this, but it is old knowledge.

It’s kind of strange that everybody don’t seem to know about the greenhouse effect in the same way, because that is also not exactly new knowledge.

I learnt about it in grade 8, maybe, around that age. 

The climate problems was not an issue back then. 

It’s just that when you burn things that contain carbon, you produce carbon dioxide, normally, if the burning goes on in a sufficient amount of air.

I have an edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, from around this time, the early 80s, and it mentions the climate problems as we know hem today, as a possible problem in the future, suggested by some researchers.

I’m definitely not a chemist or a natural scientist, but carbon is everywhere in the living world. Coal is mostly carbon. Oil contains a huge amount of carbon. Natural gas too. And other stuff.  Wood, plants. I think even humans contain a lot of it. 

Well, in motors, power plants, that covers a lot, doesn’t it? – we burn oil and gas and coal.

And out comes – CO2.

The carbon connects to oxygen in the process.

Pff, pff.

All the time.

You start your car – pff pff, a little CO2, unless it is an electrical one.

If you warm up your house with oil – pff pff…

You cook with gas – pff pff…

If your electricity comes from a power plant run on coal – pffff pfff. Bigtime.

That’s a fact.

Sorry to say this to you.

Norway is a pretty hilly country, so we have a lot of waterfalls, and they were made into power plants 100 years ago, roughly.

We used to have cheap and “clean” electricity. The rivers suffered, I believe, but at least – no CO2 from the production.

Now we’re also a pretty big oil producer, so we contribute substantially to the world production – of CO2. Pfffff pff. 

We got rich on that production. Well, well.

Today there is around 0,04 % CO2 in the air around us. A little less than a half percent.

Still, it’s one of the gases in the atmosphere regulating the temperature on earth.

As I said, I think I learnt it at school around age 14 or 15.

The greenhouse effect.

A French guy, a researcher, used that expression for the first time in the 1820s, and during the 1800s the fact was established, that CO2 is a climate gas, contributing to the regulation of the temperature on earth.

99% of the atmosphere, by the way, is about 30 000 km thick.

There are  5.15×1018 tons of gas all together in the atmosphere.  That means…

5 150 000 000 000 000 000. 

Roughly 5 billion billion tons of gas.

That’s the whole thing, including oxygen and nitrogen and CO2 and the rest.

The amount of gas in the atmosphere, all of it, is biggest near the surface, and it gets thinner the farther away from the ground you get. There’s no clear limit to where it ends, but it gets thinner and thinner and in the end it’s almost nothing.

And then…nothing.

Nada.

What’s inbetween the planets and even the moon is actually nothing.

Empty space.

Can you believe that?

can hardly believe it, or imagine it.

But it is true.

The atmosphere contains about 78% nitrogen and 21 % oxygen. So those two combined is about 99% of the mass of gas that we breathe in and that surrounds us.

The 0,04% of CO2 weighs 3000 billion tons. That’s a figure from 2015, according to English Wikipedia. I mean, the amount is rising.

Then there are noble gases, very little. Argon, mostly, a few others. They’re actually called noble gases, I had to look up the English word, it sounded  a little weird.

Then methane, laughing gas (actually, yes, nitrous oxide), ozone, and CO2, all of these socalled climate gases, contributing to the regulation of the temperature on earth. 

Vaporised water too, the same, also a temperature regulator. Skies, fog, etc.

Parts per million is another way of measuring chemicals, meaning the number of molecules of something, a substance, compared to the total you measure. 

400 ppm of CO2, in the air, was reached in 2019.

400 molecules of CO2 per every million of molecules of air.

Doesn’t sound much.

But it’s enough to scare researchers who deal with climate. 

The figure is rising.

Has been doing so for quite a while.

Before the industrial revolution, the amount was about 280 ppm.

CO2 contributes only to a part of the temperature adjustment on earth. 

There are other gases, and of course other factors. 

Local temperatures…also not the same as a global temperature average.

But the reason everybody is upset about CO2 is that it is the one factor that is really increasing. A gas that we, the humans, make in abundance right now. 

There is no doubt that this gas is coming out of our factories and power plants and cars. Trains, even, planes. You know, everywhere, every thing that uses a combustion engine, also.

You burn fuel.

The amount of CO2 in the air is increasing, simply because people get richer, production rises, people can afford to buy more and more things that are coming out of those factories.

You produce more, you burn more fuel.

You transport the stuff around the world. The ships, cars, trains, have motors. 

You just check your own statistics, or anyone else’s.

Normal measurements have been made since the 50s, from the air on the ground or upwards in the atmosphere, and to find out things before that, you basically go to glaciers, or ice in the Arctic or the Antarctic, and you take some samples from down below, and you bring them up. 

In the samples, there are bubbles of air, and since those bubbles stay there – it’s been frozen for a long time, you know! – those bubbles can be from way back.

And from how far back? 

That’s the kind of things scientists know, how long the ice have been on a specific spot on a specific depth.

So they’re able to tell the amount of CO2 many years back…hundreds, thousands, and they can make a graph.

The climate researchers are, among other things, afraid that the permafrost is going to go away. You know, in the Arctic, the ground is normally frozen even in summer, if you go just a little below the surface. You check for yourself how deep down. 

But thaw, in the ground, in the Arctic.

There are signs that it may happen. Then also CO2 which is bound…in the ground, will come up. 

No scientists who actually deal with climate issues seem to be in doubt about the basics in this problem.

Some retired people, or people who work in other fields, protest. 

Along with people who honestly don’t know much about science.

As I see it the whole thing is a consequence of getting rich enough…to deal with poverty.

A fantastic thing in itself.

I believe that historically, poverty is not going to be the biggest problem on earth in, say, a 100 years.

Maybe even long before.

That’s…huge. Historically, really big. 

Think about it. It’s been the biggest trouble for the biggest part of mankind. Always.

Poverty has really been reduced, only the last 30-40 years. The last 100 too.

So…that’s fantastic, right?

But…side effects.

To solving that problem.

Yep.

I think that this is…how do you put it?

…the big picture.

You eat more, you produce more, you burn more fuel, you produce more carbon dioxide, which is a result of every fire, every combustion that happens.

Pff pff.

You try to deal with that.

Sorry, edited after publishing.