Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bolt Cola - now with 10% less carbon pollution!

Melbourne columnist, broadcaster and prominent climate change denialist* Andrew Bolt likes Coke. He also has a television show called The Bolt Report. On this television show he has a segment called "Spin of the Week". On this week's show his spin of the week was "carbon pollution". Here is the transcript.
And to our spin of the week. You’ve heard a thousand times that to stop global warming we’ve got to cut our emissions or, as the urgers now put it.

[this is followed by footage of various politicians repeatedly saying "carbon pollution"]

Carbon pollution? Now that phrase is meant to make you think of dirty soot, but it’s a lie. They aren’t talking about carbon, but carbon dioxide, which isn’t black stuff but invisible gas [breathes out]. And carbon dioxide isn’t pollution but plant food for photosynthesis. Now look, this is the sound of carbon dioxide [cracks a can of Coke open] and if that really was pollution would I do this? [takes a mouthful] Ahhh.
Yes, he really did say "ahhh".

It was pretty funny.

I study pollution for a living. The two big ones in my field are nitrogen pollution and phosphorus pollution. These come in various forms, often from fertilisers, and when they end up in the water they cause eutrophication and toxic algal blooms. This is bad.

They are also plant food.
They are also in Coke.
Continuing the theme on his blog, Bolt poses the following question.
With Julia Gillard taxing the emissions caused by the packaging and gas in the drink itself, as well as on the petrol used to bring the Coke to you and the power to cool it, how much more will a can of Coke cost?
For some odd reason he throws this question out there but leaves us hanging on the answer. If this is the game changer he implies that it is, surely Mr Bolt's argument would be even more persuasive with a figure attached. Very strange. Maybe he just finds maths hard.

I like maths, so I decided to work it out for him.
  • Take the carbon footprint of 170g of CO2 that Bolt quotes on his blog
  • add the approximately 2.2 g of CO2 in the drink itself (from here)
  • Take a carbon price of $26 a tonne that Ross Garnaut recommends in his latest report
  • and spin.
The result.

172.2 g CO2 x 10-6 tonne g-1 x $26 tonne-1 = $0.004 per can of Coke

Does that answer your question, Mr Bolt?


An interestng factoid I came across while researching this was the etymology of the word pollution. It is first known from about 1340, and was then exclusively used for "discharge of semen other than during sex". Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase
 and if that really was pollution would I do this? [takes a mouthful]

*More precisely, he is a global-warming-is-happening-but-we-don't-know-what-is-causing-it-and-even-if-it-is-us-it's-probably-not-worth-the-cost-of-mitigating-it-ist, but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.


Anonymous said...

Nice work, including the factoid. But I think you mean 'etYmology'. (Good spelling is almost as important as good mathematics in making a convincing argument.)

~ oliviab

Daryl said...

Thanks Olivia. You are right. The stupid spell checker let that one through, even though I don't think that word exists. Now fixed.

Anonymous said...

Mr A Bolt; Dear Sir, Carbon dioxide is NOT invisible to infra-red rays! Pit Vipers and Vampire Bats know this!