Conquering Climate Change by ProQuest


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									Conquering Climate
By Dennis M. Bushnell

Unless we act, the next century could see increases in
species extinction, disease, and floods affecting one-
third of human population. But the tools for preventing
this scenario are in our hands.

   Carbon-dioxide levels are now greater than at any
time in the past 650,000 years, according to data gath-
ered from examining ice cores. These increases in CO2
correspond to estimates of man-made uses of fossil car-
bon fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The
global climate computations, as reported by the on-          the ozone layer, all producing species die-off. The posi-
going Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change              tive feedbacks not yet fully included in the IPCC pro-
(IPCC) studies, indicate that such man-made CO 2             jections include the release of the massive amounts of
sources could be responsible for observed climate            fossil methane, some 20 times worse than CO2 as an ac-
changes such as temperature increases, loss of ice cov-      celerator of warming, fossil CO2 from the tundra and
erage, and ocean acidification. Admittedly, the less than    oceans, reduced oceanic CO2 uptake due to higher tem-
satisfactory state of knowledge regarding the effects of     peratures, acidification and algae changes, changes in
aerosol and other issues make the global climate com-        the earth’s ability to reflect the sun’s light back into
putations less than fully accurate, but we must take this    space due to loss of glacier ice, changes in land use, and
issue very seriously.                                        extensive water evaporation (a greenhouse gas) from
   I believe we should act in accordance with the precau-    temperature increases.
tionary principle: When an activity raises threats of harm      The additional effects of these feedbacks increase the
to human health or the environment, precautionary mea-       projections from a 4°C–6°C temperature rise by 2100 to
sures become obligatory, even if some cause-and-effect       a 10°C–12°C rise, according to some estimates. At those
relationships are not fully established scientifically.      temperatures, beyond 2100, essentially all the ice would
   As paleontologist Peter Ward discussed in his book        melt and the ocean would rise by as much as 75 meters,
Under a Green Sky, several “warming events” have radi-       flooding the homes of one-third of the global population.
cally altered the life on this planet throughout geologic       Between now and then, ocean methane hydrate release
history. Among the most significant of these was the         could cause major tidal waves, and glacier melting could
Permian extinction, which took place some 250 million        affect major rivers upon which a large percentage of the
years ago. This event resulted in a decimation of animal     population depends. We’ll see increases in flooding,
life, leading many scientists to refer to it as the Great    storms, disease, droughts, species extinctions, ocean
Dying. The Permian extinction is thought to have been        acidification, and a litany of other impacts, all as a conse-
caused by a sudden increase in CO2 from Siberian vol-        quence of man-made climate change. Arctic ice melting,
canoes. The amount of CO2 we’re releasing into the at-       CO2 increases, and ocean warming are all occurring
mosphere today, through human activity, is 100 times         much faster than previous IPCC forecasts, so, as dire as
greater than what came out of those volcanoes.               the forecasts sound, they’re actually conservative.
   During the Permian extinction, a number of chain-            These threats exist in addition to the documented
reaction events, or “positive feedbacks,” resulted in        economic, geopolitical, and national-security issues as-
oxygen-depleted oceans, enabling overgro
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