Carbon-dioxide levels are now greater than at any time in the past 650,000 years, according to data gathered from examining ice cores. These increases in CO2 correspond to estimates of man-made uses of fossil carbon fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The global climate computations, as reported by the ongoing Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change studies, indicate that such man-made CO2 sources could be responsible for observed climate changes such as temperature increases, loss of ice coverage, and ocean acidification. Skeptics such as former US Energy Secretary James Schlesinger have raised concerns about the difficulty of storing energy from renewable sources, as opposed to oil or coal. The footprint of human civilization on this planet is now so large, covering so much geographical area, that people can even have a meaningful effect on climate change simply by painting their roofs and roads white to reflect more sunlight back into space.
Conquering Climate Change 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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