Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Forget About Global Warming and Concentrate on Carbon Dioxide.

Global warming is a contentious debate. There is more political debate then there is scientific debate: most scientists accept that human activity is, in fact, changing the climate. Among scientists, there is much greater scientific debate about just how much of an effect humans have than there is on whether or not humans are, in fact affecting the climate.

Put aside political, ideological and religious disagreements for a moment and consider this. The atmospheric level of carbon dioxide I(CO2) has been rising since the industrial revolution began more than 150 years ago. Tree rings, ice cores drilled from glaciers, fossil sea shells and other forms of evidence tell us what concentration of CO2 existed in the past compared to today. We have now reached 400 parts per million, a level that has not existed on Earth for nearly a million years (see for example http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2013/05/09/400-ppm-carbon-dioxide-in-the-atmosphere-reaches-prehistoric-levels/?WT_mc_id=SA_CAT_EVO_20130513).

It is a simple, proven scientific fact that CO2, methane and other greenhouse gasses trap infrared radiation, or heat. It is a simple, provable scientific fact that CO2 levels in our atmosphere are increasing, and the rate at which it is increasing is accelerating exactly in lock step with our burning of fossil fuels. There is legitimate scientific debate about where that excess carbon in our atmosphere may eventually go if anywhere. Can the oceans absorb some of it? The answer seems to be “Yes,” but at the expense of acidifying the oceans waters and killing many species which can’t handle that excess acidification. Does it make plants grow faster? There is mixed evidence for this, but one thing is certain: one of the main sources of CO2 uptake is the planet’s rainforests, and we’re depleting them rapidly so we can raise more beef cattle, which, by the way, is one of the main sources of methane, and even more potent greenhouse gas.

My point is this: whether or not you believe that the temperature of the planet is actually warming, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is growing and at an accelerating rate. Doesn’t it at all worry you that we are pumping tons and tons of this stuff into our atmosphere every single day without the simplest thought about what it MIGHT do? Doesn’t it make sense that we try to NOT change the atmosphere of the only planet that we know of that can sustain life when we can’t yet predict all the consequences of that change?

Forget about what we may or may not be doing and concentrate on what we KNOW we are doing: increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere of our planet to a level not seen virtually since the dawn of humans.

That alone should be cause for concern.

1 comment:

  1. Too right, Wayne, and ab big pat on the back for leaving out the political gunk. Fact is, we only get one shot at this, and if people are too busy fighting among themselves, no progress will be made toward a solution. Great post!