#2 – Myth: More pollution is generated manufacturing solar panels than can ever be offset by solar energy.
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant… in naturally occurring amounts. Millennia of evolution have formed a delicate balance between CO2 naturally emitted (by natural forces such as volcanoes) and CO2 naturally consumed (by trees and other plants, for example). What Mother Nature doesn’t account for is oil and coal extracted from a dormant existence within the earth, to be combusted in coal-fired power plants and released through toxic automobile exhausts.
Plus, there are the billions of acres of deforested land that once absorbed much of that CO2. Estimates of man-made CO2 emissions from deforestation (logging or slash-and-burn) range from 12 to 25% of the total. Compounding the issue is the fact that plant life extracts CO2 from the atmosphere and inserts oxygen. A burnt or logged tree no longer processes carbon dioxide, but rather emits the CO2 it once absorbed. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, some 13 million hectares of forest are lost each year (2006 numbers). 1.6 billion tons (1.45 billion metric tons) of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere each year through deforestation.
Now, let’s take volcanoes, which our debunker highlights for their sulfur dioxide emissions as part of diversionary tactic away from CO2. He discards volcanoes as “not a pollutant” due most likely to lack of any real argument against their dangerous effects in high concentrations. It is estimated that volcanoes release 130-230 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year—just shy of 16% of the total emissions from deforestation alone. Volcanoes are hardly an arguing point for minimizing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, as scientists have known for decades that they contribute immensely to toxic air quality.
Furthermore, choosing sulfur dioxide as a means to mitigate the pollutive effect of coal plants is misleading because, using limestone beds, sulfur can be removed from coal prior to combustion, thus greatly reducing the formation of sulfur dioxide. They have yet to develop a feasible way to capture carbon dioxide, hence the dismissive response of our debunker.