Intelligence isn’t necessarily a good thing. If two computers are programmed with a mistake, the more powerful computer may actually be better at extended that error. Human intelligence is the same way, if one begins with faulty assumptions the more intelligent the thinker, the more fantastical the rationalization may be.

We learned this week that Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere has hit levels never before seen in human history.  The last time levels were this high, saber-tooth tigers roamed the plains. You would think an intelligent species would get the hint, but intelligence may be the problem if it overrides the discipline of limiting our speculations by the scientific method. Most would agree that the Wall Street Journal is filled with intelligent people, but just as they use their intelligence to rationalize neglecting the poor, so has an op-ed piece in the WSJ turned to rationalizing away the need to face the climate crisis.

The op-ed is titled, “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide. It is written by two scientists.

“Of all of the world’s chemical compounds, none has a worse reputation than carbon dioxide. Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant. That’s simply not the case. Contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.

The cessation of observed global warming for the past decade or so has shown how exaggerated NASA’s and most other computer predictions of human-caused warming have been—and how little correlation warming has with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As many scientists have pointed out, variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. There isn’t the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather.”

I am no scientist, but the study seems to be saying that the pre-human atmosphere was great for many plant species and so it is hysterical to say that increased carbon dioxide is a poison. Carbon Dioxide is perfectly natural the study claims, so NASA and the majority of scientists are overreacting to the data.

I have no doubt the two scientists who wrote this study are brilliant. But I suspect that the small group of climate change denying scientists go into their research with a bias toward business. In grant driven universities, the temptation would be hard to resist to champion the corporate mantra that businesses and corporations should not be asked to sacrifice financially unless there is solid evidence of human caused global warming. Of course the only evidence that would count for some would be a devastated planet. The point, it seems, would be to figure all this out before it is too late. In the end, it does matter what human intelligence can imagine or rationalize. What makes NASA and those other scientists reliable is not their mere intelligence, but the disciplines of science.

Dr. Michael Mann is a climatologist who gave an early warning that has been called the “hockey stick” showing a severe spike in global temperatures. He and other scientists have tested the data over and over. When asked about the Wall Street Journal op-ed he responed:

 It took nature hundreds of hundreds of millions of years to change CO2 concentrations through natural processes such as natural carbon burial and volcanic outgassing.

So, yes, 100 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous period, CO2 concentrations were higher than today, and the Earth was warmer than today. Nature buried all of that carbon over a timeframe of 100,000 years. What we are doing is unburying it. But not over 100 million years. We’re unburying it and burning it over a timescale of 100 years, a million times faster. There is no precedent in Earth history for such an abrupt increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Real scientists aren’t just smart, they are disciplined. They test every theory with ruthless methodology. It doesn’t matter what makes the most money, or what humans want the facts to be. Arguing that the pre-human atmosphere was hospitable to plants is a red herring. Because, wait for it, we aren’t plants. The human mind can imagine all kinds of fantastic possibilities, but an certain kind of atmosphere is kind of important for our species. As one author put it, “Try living on Venus.”