The ignorance of Terry McCrann

By May 5, 2019Environment, Media, Science

Terry McCrann usually writes on business topics for Murdoch’s The Australian, but he has written a simply silly piece on carbon dioxide emissions, and to let you know where he stands, he has termed the push for renewable energy the “cult of carbon dioxide fear and loathing”1. So, he is clearly a climate change denier, as are many of the other buffoons who write for, or appear on Murdoch’s various media outlets2,3.

McCrann whines about the fact that a large proportion of the carbon dioxide emitted in Europe is from biomass (mostly wood), and assumes that it simply adds to carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere which it does. However, he seems to think it is equivalent to burning fossil fuels, which it isn’t. The carbon dioxide released from burning biomass releases is used by plants to make cellulose and other plant compounds; i.e. to make more plants. This sort of thing has been happening more or less since land plants evolved over 400 million years ago. We know this because of the presence of charcoal in the fossil record, which is known from as far back as the Silurian (433-419 million years ago)4. It is since that time that fires have been part of what is termed the natural carbon cycle5. If you burn wood, all you are doing is returning the carbon dioxide the tree used to construct the wood to the atmosphere. The clue is in the name; it’s a cycle, something McCrann does not seem to understand.

While burning wood adds to the problem of carbon dioxide emissions, it is fossil fuels which are by far the biggest problem. Coal, oil and gas are formed from fossil plant (mostly algal) material, and the enormous amounts of these hydrocarbons have been sequestered in the ground for many millions of years. When this is burnt, the resultant carbon dioxide is released in such quantities that it has ‘overpowered’ the carbon cycle. As a consequence, these gases have been building up in the atmosphere, leading to it heating up, to an extent that is dangerous. We have known this for nearly 30 years6. McCrann seems to be ignorant of this.

McCrann seems to be of the opinion that all carbon dioxide is recycled and if there is more carbon dioxide, there will be more plants and a greener world. If that was the case, then why has the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere risen dramatically? It has increased from less than 300 parts per million, a level it has not exceeded in over 800,000 years7, to now being over 405 parts per million8. Almost all this increase has happened in the last 60 years, and the rate of increase has accelerated in recent years. That increase has translated to a world 1°C hotter than it was throughout all of human history.

McCrann would be better advised to stick with writing on his pet topic of business machinations, rather than writing about things on which he clearly knows little. Whether he was put up to this stupid article by Murdoch’s editorial minions or whether he wrote it of his own accord is of little consequence. Either of these demonstrates that Murdoch’s The Australian is only a pretend newspaper. In addition, McCrann’s piece of drivel does make one wonder about the other articles he writes? Are they similarly requested by his superiors to push their particular barrow, or are they based on his own ignorance?




  • Greg Hall says:

    That the McCrann piece passes as journalism in ‘our’ national daily is appalling.
    The criticisms made above are valid, but don’t seem to acknowledge that it is simply carbon dioxide, from whatever source, that has been ‘released in such quantities that it has ‘overpowered’ the carbon cycle’.

    Yes, the fossil carbon was held for tens of millions of years, allowing the recent equable climate to develop, whereas the biomass carbon was out of the atmosphere for only a few centuries at most.
    Yes, before we burned the peat, then the coal, then oil and gas, the carbon in the atmosphere was more-or-less in balance, stabilised to a great extent by the capacity of the oceans to mop up any short-term excesses.
    But no, the atmosphere sees only the increase of a heat-retaining gas, regardless of it’s source.

    That the nations of the world will claim to ‘meet their Paris commitments at a canter’, largely by the use of this accounting trick is astonishing. Thousands of elected officials and public servants are co-conspiators in this global deceit.

    The Dogwood Alliance in the southern USA explains this, and has prepared a documentary Burned – Are Forests The New Coal?

    • Mark Dougall says:

      I completely agree Greg. The use of forests to fuel our orgiastic consumption fetish is possibly even more concerning than the use of long deceased biomass. Not only does this continue to release significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere but it depletes a critical mechanism for actually reducing the problem.
      As has been noted, and not for the first time, in a major UN study of the world’s biomass released this week, we are causing the probable extinction of at least 1,000,000 species of organism.

      It is not climate change, however, that is, and has been the main cause of this. It is over population, land clearing, mono-cultures for agriculture, pesticides, herbicides, mining, dams, urban sprawl and so many other aspects of our so-called developed world. It is basically, our voracious, thoughtless, selfish treatment of our planet, on local and global scales that is killing everything around us and will kill us in the end unless there is a significant change in the way we behave. Terry McCrann and others of his unthinking ilk are opposed to some of the most minor changes we need to make (such as his obsessive opposition to wind power). They will be apoplectic at what really needs to be done to alter our terrible trajectory.

      • admin says:

        Anything vaguely approaching business as usual will doom us to occupy a planet which is severely degraded, and large parts of which may be uninhabitable.

    • admin says:

      The only way using wood as a reasonable energy source, is if it is done in a sustainable way. That is if the stuff grows as fast as it is used. As I said, that is the way it has operated since the Silurian. Whatever we do on the planet has a cost, and that needs to be kept to a minimum. With so many of us on the planet, that probably will be too much anyway.

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