With so much misinformation floating around social media I felt it was time to ask a real environmental scientist, my brother, Dr. Marcus Scammell, to explain in layman’s terms how burning coal, driving cars and using electricity was creating an increase in global temperatures. Like anybody else without a scientific background I need someone with integrity to explain to me how my lifestyle may or may not be contributing to climate change.
I am listening and I want the facts.
Like everybody else, I want to believe that these raging temperatures and wild weather patterns are just part of a cycle. I want to believe that humanity hasn’t impacted negatively on the planet. But denial is a dangerous river and I don’t want to drown in it thanks. And so I asked a scientist whose integrity is well-known to me. My brother has no political or economic agenda biasing him. He is a dedicated scientist who can’t be bought by the Murdoch Press or the Rhinehart PR flunkies.
He can’t be bought.
A bit of background. My brother was still doing his doctorate when he discovered it was tributal tin leeching out of toxic anti-fouling paints that was stagnating Sydney waterways, significantly Sydney Harbour. With the density of traffic – ferries, pleasure craft, cruise liners – in such a small area he observed that there were no oysters. The Harbour and surrounding estuaries were essentially dead.
When he published his paper: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256985103_The_recovery_of_oyster_Saccostrea_glomerata_populations_in_Sydney_estuary_Australia it drew the attention of the Greiner Government who proceeded to ban anti-fouling paint using tributal tin. My brother then graduated and took a job with Sydney Water and in his spare time he set about developing a completely non-toxic anti-fouling paint.
Fast forward to the nineties and the oyster farmers in Tasmania get in touch with my brother and ask for help because the oysters are dying in their thousands. There is a 95% extinction rate. My brother flies down at his own expense and investigates and what he finds sends shock waves through the logging industry who pull out the Murdoch Press and the Tasmanian Government to discredit him and so, despite the support of the ABC and two episodes of Australian Story his findings were quashed and he was, in effect, silenced.
Aerial Spraying, Oyster Deaths & Tasmanian Devil cancer link
A report on mass mortalities in oysters from Tasmania’s
east coast highlights a correlation between the use of
four highly toxic chemicals, the oyster deaths and the
deadly facial tumour disease occurring in Tasmanian Devils.
- Dr Marcus Scammell
- Marine Ecologist
- Environmental Problems Georges Bay, Tasmania
- Dr Marcus Scammell
- Alexandra de Blas
- Jackie May
Dr Marcus Scammell and Dr Alison Bleaney in Tasmania
To protect the poisonous and polluting logging industry a vicious and nasty campaign to discredit my brother was set in motion. However the scientific community was not so easily duped and this plea for support of my brother and Dr Alison Bleaney came from Dr David Obendorf 28.02.10
But with big business driving the Tasmanian Government the campaign stepped up. However, not everybody was fooled. The ABC upped the anti and ran an unprecedented second program on Australian Story. The backlash was predictable and pathetic but the support was heartwarming. Ordinary people started asking sensible questions about whether or not it was morally responsible to poison the arterial waterways that supplied drinking water to animals and human locals as opposed to supporting the mega-business of logging.
I only cite this backstory because I am seeing a repetition of this media-backed corruption right now in regards to Climate Change and it alarms me that we may not move fast enough to save our planet. As long as the Murdoch Press keeps up a sullied stream of anti-Climate Change articles twisting the facts, people will be lulled into a false sense of security. We will fiddle while Rome burns.
Indeed Australia is burning and idiots are scape-goating the Greens just as my brother was scape-goated when he was presenting a very inconvenient truth.
Let me point out here that to backburn you have only to apply for a permit, not from the Greens, but from your local RFS, not, I repeat FROM THE GREENS.
Fire permits – NSW Rural Fire Service – rfs.nsw.gov.au
In August 2019 when the RFS usually carries out backburning, conditions were deemed too dangerous. We were in the middle of a drought and erratic winds were making the task difficult for the RFS. The Greens had nothing to do with this decision.
I have written many blogs about the psychic and spiritual pollution created by psychotically-greedy billionaires and the political gaslighting that creates these ongoing oil-grabbing wars in the Middle East but I have not until today written about the physical pollution created by climate change.
He has also posited that his anti-fouling paint has a useful by-product in the form of increased speed in yachting craft, liners, ferries, ocean-going vessels and even aircraft. Even a slight increase in speed will save gallons of fuel and lower the carbon footprint significantly.
He tends to keep to himself these days and only his very trusted family and friends are privvy to his genius solutions. He knows I’m writing this and is happy to provide a simple layman’s explanation of Climate Change for those who can’t quite get to grips with it.
The Green House Gas Issue
My Understanding of it, Marcus Scammell PhD
My degrees are in Science specialising in Marine Ecology. My PhD was focused on the impacts of antifouling paints (containing TBT) on the intertidal environment with an emphasis on the impact on commercial oyster production. After qualifying in the early nineties, I was employed with Sydney Water measuring the impacts of Sydney Water’s activities on aquatic environments and later the success or otherwise of engineering solutions to reduce Sydney Water pollution impacts. I left Sydney Water a few years ago and am now working on an alternative to toxic antifouling paints.
My sister has asked me to explain how the green house gas issue works so I will try to explain it in the way I understand it.
What is a Fossil Fuel?
Fossil fuels are Hydrocarbons. Unsurprisingly Hydrocarbons are made up predominantly of hydrogen and carbon of varying sized molecules. They occurred when dead forests became trapped under sediment (coal) or when dead sea creatures accumulated on the bottom of shallow seas and became trapped under sediment (oil, diesel, petrol etc.). They readily burn in the presence of atmospheric oxygen creating usable heat and releasing carbon dioxide and water.
So, in short, we take carbon buried in the ground, burn it, releasing carbon to the atmosphere.
My car has an eighty-litre fuel tank which I fill with gasoline. Gasoline is a mixture of shortish hydrocarbons and has a specific gravity of between 0.71 to 0.77. What that means is a litre of gasoline weighs between 710 grams to 770 grams. For the sake of this example lets assume a litre of Gasoline weighs 740 grams. So, a full tank of Gasoline in my car weighs roughly 59 kilograms.
The chemistry of Gasoline combustion is often simplified to the combustion of a molecule called Benzine, a major component of Gasoline. The equation looks like the following:
C8H18 + 12.5 O2 → 8 CO2 + 9 H2O
If we assume that the combustion of each litre of Gasoline (Benzine) is complete, i.e. all Benzine is burnt. Then we can estimate how many kilograms of Carbon Dioxide is produced per kilogram of burnt Benzine. The molecular weight of Benzine (C8H18) is approximately 115.672. The molecular weight of 12.5 Oxygen atoms (O2) derived from the atmosphere is approximately 199.9875. The molecular weight of 8 Carbon Dioxide atoms (CO2) released to the atmosphere is approximately 352.072. The molecular weight of 9 Water molecules (H2O) released to the atmosphere is approximately 162.135. Thus, the ratio of Benzine, burnt to Carbon Dioxide released is approximately 115.672 to 352.072 or approximately 1:3. Thus complete combustion of 1 kilogram of liquid Benzine produces approximately 3 kilograms of gaseous Carbon Dioxide.
So, one tank of Gasoline (approximately 59 kilograms) produces approximately 177 kilograms of gaseous Carbon Dioxide (a green-house gas).
I use approximately one tank of gasoline a week (Australia is a big country and I drive a lot). My car turns carbon that was originally in the ground into atmospheric Carbon Dioxide at a rate of about 170 kilograms per week.
Scale that Up
If we look back to the beginning of steam engines and the combustion of coal through to the production of internal combustion engines and on to the jet engine and multiply that by the number of engines both past and present it is not that hard to see that every engine producing 100s of kilograms of Carbon Dioxide per week or per day or per hour (big ships) depending on the size of the machine, we’ve got an awful lot of Carbon Dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere (carbon that has been sourced from under the ground).
This does not include the other greenhouse gases that fossil fuel combustion also produces but it gives some idea of the scale of the problem.
Earth, Heating and Cooling
I am going to massively oversimplify this bit so be warned my scientific friends, if you want to explain this in the detail it deserves, go ahead.
During the day, when our part of the planet faces the Sun, the surface heats up. Now, we are protected from the more harmful radiation by the Earth’s magnetosphere which deflects the most dangerous particles around the planet. The atmosphere filters out a lot of the UV light and the water cycle and the plants help slow the heating of the planet so during the day we don’t cook. At night the planet releases that heat back to outer space but not all the heat is lost thanks to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere along with heat retained in the water cycle and the biomass on our planet. So, at night we don’t freeze.
Simply put, increasing greenhouse gases reduces the heat loss at night (I warned you my scientific friends). The Sun heats us up each day, but less heat is lost. That happens the next day and the day after that and the year after that and the decade after that. Gradually increasing the average temperature on the surface. The more greenhouse gas accumulates the more the cycle is exacerbated.
But the Earth is Big, and the Carbon Cycle is Complicated.
True! Photosynthesis regulates the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Plants actively take carbon dioxide and water and turn it into sugar and oxygen. Erosion of rocks also regulates carbon dioxide as does sequestration into soil, absorption into the ocean, and other processes. But the problem is we are releasing greenhouse gases that were sequestered into the soil millions of years ago, faster than natural processes can take it back up. Hence its concentration in the atmosphere is increasing.
But, my sceptical friends, how do we know that the carbon in the atmosphere is predominantly from fossil fuels and not due to deforestation (also caused by us) or damage to soil microbial communities from agriculture (let me think, also caused by us).
This is where some really clever science comes in. As ice accumulates in glaciers and at the poles it traps bits of atmosphere in it. A small proportion of Carbon that is exposed to sunlight becomes irradiated forming the isotope C14. Carbon that is not exposed to sunlight decays back to its stable form which I think is C13. This takes a long time, in the order of 5,000 years. So, carbon that is buried in the fossil fuel deposits has a very different ratio of C14 to C13 than carbon in the atmosphere.
When ice cores are extracted, the trapped gases can be analysed, from, for example, three hundred years ago. This can be measured for both carbon dioxide content and isotope ratio. In recent times the carbon dioxide concentration trapped in these ices has increased telling us that CO2 in our atmosphere is indeed going up and this trend started around the time of the industrial revolution. Secondly, the isotope ratio is changing. The extra carbon dioxide isotope ratio is low in C14 indicating that its source has only recently been exposed to the atmosphere. It has the isotope ratio of a fossil fuel.
It is the combination of understanding the sheer volume of greenhouse gases we emit and the clever chemistry of the isotope scientists that has convinced most scientists that this is real, and we need to do something about it. I hope this helps others understand this issue.