The issue of global warming is heating up once again as the 15th Annual UN Climate Change Conference convenes in Copenhagen this week. From this meeting one thing is certain; there will be no consensus reached on what the world should do – if anything. This is the 15th meeting on this topic and the United States has only recently decided to participate in these discussions. I call these discussions because there have been no significant actions or plans to come out as a direct result of these annual events to date. When a problem becomes so complex that one cannot fully understand what the real issues are, it is sometimes easier to determine what we do know as factual and separate that from what is conjecture, fantasy, opinion, or just your brother-in-laws blog page.
Nature is a magnificent machine, it manages adversity quite well, performs a system of checks and balances to adjust to changing events taking place over thousands of years. It performs best as a balanced system, and for that purpose the greenhouse effect is generally a good thing by maintaining the Earth’s temperature sufficiently warm enough to sustain life. However, when the atmosphere becomes unbalanced, the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations begins to outpace the Earth’s natural ability to absorb carbon. This triggers a variety of naturally occurring responses which all tend to contribute to a general warming of the Earth.
Let’s list what we know here to be factual:
The Earth’s population doubles every 40 years
The recent rise in temperature has occurred over the last several decades
Historical rises were part of a gradual process that took about 5,000 years in contrast
The greatest increases in temperature are occurring at the poles
Since 1970 400,000 square miles of Arctic sea ice has disappeared
Natural levels of CO2 have generally varied from 180 to 300 ppm
Today’s CO2 levels are more on the order of 380 ppm, and rising
Historically we have found that pollution in any form whether it be air, noise, water, solid waste or hazardous waste, when found in sufficient quantities, becomes detrimental to human life and the environment. Why would it not be logical to assume that greenhouse gasses (chlorofluorocarbons, methane, CO2, and Nitrous Oxides), when found in sufficient quantities in the atmosphere, would also be detrimental to human life and the environment? If this premise is true, then the question should not be asked “if” but “when” will this situation become detrimental to the environment?
The Earth can handle natural amounts of CO2 but when the concentrations exceed that amount then surplus concentrations begin to build up. When left unchecked, these concentrations will continue to build until adverse impacts result on a global scale. The Earth is over 4 billion years old; industrialization, deforestation, and globalization have only been around for about 150 years. The full impact from our industrialization has yet to be realized.
A sustainable society should be concerned over the long term effects to our environment. Most scientists tend to believe that we are currently operating on borrowed time and that we may only have 20 years to begin to reverse this situation while there are others who believe that we have 150 or more years. Depending on who you believe, it comes down to do we mortgage our children’s environment or their children’s? It’s not about “if”; it’s all about “when”.
Saving tomorrow begins today!