References are indicated thus: ⁽¹⁾ refers to note 1 at the bottom of this page.
The following are a few facts that need to be considered when defining pollution and its effects on the earth and/or life living on it:
1) Anything in excess or shortage will have a damaging effect on something else.
'Anything' includes: chemicals, light, magnetism, temperature, radiation, force, pressure, etc.
2) The earth is not alive and doesn't need protection from humans. It can look after itself⁽¹⁾
3) The earth will continue to evolve and die under its own momentum no matter what happens to the life living on it
4) Because of its notoriety today, it is important to clarify that CO₂ is not pollution and reducing its quantity in the earth's atmosphere will not make the earth greener or cooler⁽²ꞌ⁷⁾
5) Burning fossil fuels cannot harm the earth; it can only harm life on it
6) Fossil fuels originate from life on earth not the earth itself and they constitute a tiny proportion of the hydrogen and carbon processed on and within the earth
7) 99% of all the earth's life-form variations have been wiped out as a result of the earth's own cycles with no input from mankind
8) Humans are subject to the same forces of evolution and extinction as is every other life-form on earth
A Definition: Pollution is an excess or deficit of something that represents a danger to any living organism; animal or vegetable.
Plants can survive on earth without animals, but animals cannot survive on earth without plants.
Recovery of animal life on earth after extinction will be relatively fast if sufficient healthy plants remain but impossible without plants.
The protection of plants on earth is therefore more important than the protection of animals. As such, the most appropriate action to best preserve life on earth must be to maximise warmth, clean water and CO₂ in the atmosphere to a level at which animal life is not put at risk⁽²ꞌ⁶⁾
It is important to define exactly what it is we are trying to protect before we can define what constitutes pollution or a pollutant:
The earth cannot be damaged by pollution without eradicating its inhabitants
The earth⁽¹⁾ is a barren but very active rock with its own plan and momentum. It doesn't need weather patterns, the moon, protection from solar radiation or even its magnetic field to survive. The only thing it needs is liquid surface water to lubricate the subduction process and nothing mankind can do will raise its environmental temperature sufficiently to maintain all (or even most) of its surface water in vapour form.
Earth's surface water cannot be damaged by pollution without eradicating its inhabitants
Water purity is important for the creation and continuation of life on earth but it can be severely polluted and still function as a lubricant for the earth's subduction process. If life on earth pollutes surface water to the extent that all multicellular life is killed, the earth itself will clean it up again (through its own chemical processes) and life will begin all over again from the evolution of bacterior that will have survived after the pollutant has been eradicated.
Earth's atmosphere cannot be damaged by pollution without eradicating its inhabitants
No matter what life on earth does to the earth's atmosphere, the earth cannot be turned into another Venus. The earth is too far from the sun for it to heat up sufficiently to vaporise all its surface water⁽⁸⁾.
Therefore, what constitutes atmospheric pollution? The earth's atmosphere is: ≈78% nitrogen with ≈21% oxygen, ≈1% argon, ≈0.03% CO₂ and trace amounts of other gases. It is perfectly possible for argon and all the trace elements to be eradicated from the atmosphere and life as we know it today would continue with negligible variation. The role and effect of the three important atmospheric gasses (apart from water vapour) can be defined as follows:
Nitrogen (N₂) is a relatively inert gas and present in the earth's atmosphere largely as a result of decaying animals and plants. Whilst decay continues at its current rate, nitrogen levels should remain as-is. Significant changes in atmospheric nitrogen levels will not affect animals, and plants get most of their nitrogen from the soil through decaying animals and plants. Nitrogen holds almost 80% of the earth's surface heat.
Oxygen (O₂) is essential for animal life but not necessary for plant life. O₂ is generated on earth by plants converting CO₂ through photosynthesis. Animal life needs a minimum amount of O₂ in order to survive⁽³⁾. Therefore, if animal life as we know it is to continue into the future, we need to protect and strengthen plant growth, which is necessary for the generation of O₂. Oxygen holds almost 20% of the earth's surface heat.
Carbon Dioxide⁽⁵⁾ (CO₂) is responsible for the creation and proliferation of plant life on earth. The more CO₂ in the atmosphere (along with sunlight and warmth)⁽²⁾ the more O₂ will be generated. Just as for O₂ (above) it is the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere that is important when defining levels that will cause harm to animals or strengthen plant growth. Carbon dioxide holds about 0.0262% of the earth's surface heat.
The earth's atmospheric CO₂ levels can be allowed to increase to any level, even by 100%, without harming life on earth⁽¹⁾. In fact an increase in any atmospheric gas, including CO₂, will actually reduce atmospheric temperature unless there is a coincident and commensurate increase in heat energy.
Bacteria cannot be polluted to an extent that any other life-form will continue to survive
Bacteria is where all life (on earth or anywhere else) begins and ends. It can live, evolve and proliferate in almost any earthly environment. Life can never eradicate all forms of bacteria on earth irrespective of pollution levels. Bacteria will survive on earth in one form or another until there is no CO₂ in the atmosphere at which time the earth will be solid rock.
Plants can be polluted by an excess of radiation, salts, heavy elements and gases to the extent that such pollution reduces their access to free CO₂
Plants can continue to exist in a CO₂ rich environment but they must have clean water. Therefore, if the earth's water is polluted to a level that plants as we know them today all die, they will restart later after the earth has purified the water. Plants need warmth, sunlight, water and CO₂ to survive (and a few additional elements such as nitrogen to proliferate). Land plants and fresh water plants both need clean fresh water.
Animals can be polluted by an excess of radiation, salts, heavy elements and noxious gases (mostly hydrogen based) to the extent such pollution reduces their access to free O₂
Animals living on the earth today (including mankind) have evolved from simpler forms of single-cell life over the past 600 million years. As 99% of all life forms that have existed during this period no longer exist, it is safe to say that life will continue to evolve irrespective of mankind's activities until the next ice age, loss of the earth's magnetic field or any other cataclysmic event. It is also safe to predict that 600 million years into the future, 99% of all today's life-forms will no longer exist on the earth. Animals need warmth, sunlight, water, O₂ and plants to survive. Land animals need fresh water to survive. Animals evolved and proliferated on earth when its atmosphere contained greater than 25 times more CO₂ than it does today⁽¹⁾.
The most dangerous pollutants for animal life on earth today are heavy metals; e.g. the production of solar cells and batteries and carcinogenic deposits in the atmosphere; e.g. from processed diesel and coal (see Fuels).
1) No level of pollution will harm the earth
2) It is more important to protect plant life than animal life on earth.
CO₂ levels must therefore be preserved or increased
3) Far from being a pollutant, CO₂ is beneficial to all life on earth and an increase of up to 100% will improve conditions for life on earth
4) Heavy-metal batteries, coal and diesel fuel are pollutants and should be replaced as energy sources
Reducing atmospheric CO₂ is not green and burning less fossil fuels will not save the earth
You will find further reading on this subject in reference publications(28)