LETTER: Opinion stated as scientific fact is worry

While I enjoy reading Richard Williamson’s column, I do worry about some of his scientific opinion being presented as fact.

In last week’s column, carbon dioxide was described as ‘filthy’. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Carbon and its compounds form the basis of all life on this planet and carbon dioxide in gaseous form, or in solution as carbonic acid, is the only way that plants can assimilate carbon.

Carbon then passes as plant food to animal life.

The present problem with carbon dioxide is that we have produced too much of it to be assimilated quicky enough by the Earth’s carbon storing systems, such as plant growth.

The excess will never be enough to poison us but the molecule absorbs infra red energy from the Earth and re-emits a proportion of this back, causing a greenhouse effect.

Interestingly, were levels of carbon dioxide to become too low, the Earth would freeze, so there is a narrow band of concentration levels which in Goldilock terms is ‘just right’.

It is this balance that has been thrown awry by industrialisation that is the problem, not by any means the presence of carbon dioxide itself.

Undoubtedly, increasing tree cover on Earth would be one way of eventually rebalancing carbon dioxide levels and tree planting is great for aesthetics and amenity. However, there would need to be vast new forests globally to have any meaningful effect, such as reafforestation of the Gobi Desert.

The Chinese to their credit are working on this but we should not expect to see any resultant rebalancing of the atmosphere by this or similar means for several centuries yet.