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Climate Change, the Symptom

9/25/2008 2:28:03 PM

Tags: climate change, population, overpopulation, the environment

 

Canyon

Climate change fills the news channels right now and arrests the attention of people all over the world. The statistics and, more importantly, the images are startling. The average global temperature has been going up since 1850 and is accelerating. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are all at historic highs.[1] These so-called “greenhouse gases” allow the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to rain down on the earth’s surface, but they trap the infrared radiation emitted by the warm earth. The planet warms up.

Take a look at any historic comparison of alpine glaciers or polar ice caps. They are shrinking. Rapidly.

 Most scientists agree that human beings are causing global warming. We dig up fossil fuels and burn them, releasing carbon dioxide. We blanket our agricultural fields with nitrogen-based fertilizers that fill the air with nitrous oxide. We raise billions of agricultural animals in circumstances that create unnatural amounts of methane. We burn the forests and plow up the grasslands that used to capture carbon dioxide from the air and deposit it in the soil. Rich people are making the biggest contribution to these problems. According to CNN, the average American's annual carbon footprint is about 2,000 times greater than that of the average resident of the African nation of Chad. And the average resident of the UK will generate as much atmospheric carbon dioxide in one day as a Kenyan will in an entire year. Overall, the United Nations estimates that the carbon footprint of the world's 1 billion poorest people represents just 3 percent of the global total. Of all the carbon dioxide deposited in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, 80 percent of the world's emissions was generated by 20 percent of the inhabitants of the world's wealthiest nations.[2]

It is, therefore, tempting to think that we can solve the climate-change problem by tightening the belts of the rich. But I’ll reiterate the conclusion of my rough analysis of this situation: If the U.S. and Western Europe both cut their per capital energy consumption in half over the next 20 years and the developing world holds its per capita consumption steady, we’ll keep on emitting greenhouse gases at the same harmful rate we are emitting right now. Population growth will erase all our progress.

Furthermore, even if none of our planet’s new human residents owns an internal-combustion engine, they will still need to burn wood and plant gardens. Deforestation and desertification are symptoms of human overpopulation, and those symptoms are spreading.



[1] World Meteorological Organization, United Nations Environmental Programme Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2007 - The Physical Science Basis. 2007.

[2] Oliver, Rachel.  Rich, Poor and Climate Change. CNN.com. February 18, 2008. Cited sources: Sources: The Independent; The Australian; The Guardian; American Association for the Advancement of Science; World Resources Institute; U.N. Statistics Division; Oxfam; ChristianAid; NetAid; International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis; "A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy"; World Development Movement; ITNewswire



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Post a comment below.

 

just austin
2/5/2009 1:51:53 PM
"Bottlenecking" could not be recognized at the time it was happening, back in history. The exact reasons have only recently been surmised. Wake-up and smell the pollution!

nora_1
2/3/2009 8:59:30 PM
The mine fires in China and India put out more cO2 than all the cars in America each year.

mij noslo
2/2/2009 9:53:07 PM
Come on!? Population control???What kind of socialist mumbo jumbo insanity! Green house Gas my ....... carbon foot print for carbon credits - Please stop it already bogus science backed up by bogus propaganda. Go back in years with "MotherEarth" mag to around the sixties and see the garbage written about "global cooling" pure twaddle from lame brains and to buy into it one needs to check all common sense at the door. So don't go getting your bvd's in a bunch there is a lot of other serious matters to be involved in than dying on the wrong battle field here. Take algore for what he is an old kook hack that is irrelevant. He's just picking your pockets.

just austin
2/2/2009 7:29:47 PM
Take all the information available on Global Warming and try to make it all piece together(like a pyramid in 3D).Now if you turned this object 180 degrees (sometimes we need to go back to go forward), you may see a type of funnel. Does anyone else see a "population bottleneck" forming?

BillH
2/2/2009 6:28:28 PM
[continued] ... vapor is primary), there might be no measurable impact on temperature from increased CO2. Conversely, really high CO2 levels might "turn on" some kind of process of which we are not aware.

BillH
2/2/2009 6:16:01 PM
Mother Earth readers and writers have always been focused on doing things for themselves and their families and neighbors, not involvement in politics. We should not be looking at how to change the climate of the earth, which nearly everyone agrees is impossible or nearly so. Instead, we should be concerned with how, within our families and communities, we can avoid problems involved with temperature and CO2 increases, and even take advantage of the changes. On the side of avoiding problems with temperature increases, each of us need to be more concerned with our access to water, including alternatives and saving. Not to "save the world", since the total amount of H2O on the Earth is not going to change; but rather to continue our own lives and those of our communities. Also, passive cooling will become more important. On the plus side, more CO2 in the atmosphere means faster growing plants and higher temperatures means a longer growing season. We should expect some slight changes in which varieties do the best in our local areas and when to plant and harvest; we need to keep up with this. Also, heating in the winter may become less of an issue. In most areas of the US, more energy is used to heat in the winter than to cool in the summer, so the net impact is a positive. Also, I agree with Kazooter's comments above about the inverse relationship between CO2 and temperature. It turns out that as the ocean temperature rises, it releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Since CO2 rising first is a rare event, the past is not helpful in predicting what will happen with our current situation, which involves CO2 rising along with the temperature, rather than hundreds of years later. The good news / bad news is that, as a result, all of the computer models on which the prediction of global warming depend are of little validity so the future is unpredictable. It could turn out that, because CO2 is (historically) a minor greenhouse gas (water

Ken_5
2/2/2009 4:07:01 PM
To those who say the earth is over populated, please feel free to check out. We don't need your pollution that you are so concerned about. I see a volcano in alaska is about to erupt. When it does it will be sending toxic greenhouse gasses high into the atmosphere. It could easily put out more gasses in a day than california does in a day. Please stop it or reduce your load to offset it. Kilauea in Hawaii has been erupting for over twenty years now. Its effects are off the charts. How do you propose to stop it or offset its effects. These offsets must be borne by the US alone as these natural volcanos reside in the US.

George Works
2/2/2009 8:08:37 AM
Three points come to mind: 1) When we import steel and manufactured goods we become responsible for the CO2 it took to produce them. The CO2 would not be emitted if we did not consume the goods. So this CO2 should be to the account of the rich nations, not the developing ones. 2) The atmosphere belongs equally to all the people of the Earth, and we should have equal rights to pollute it. Yet Americans and Western Europeans generate vastly more CO2 per capita than Chinese and Indians. We need to agree on a per-capita limit. 3) The Earth's human population has doubled in my lifetime. This trend can't continue. In fact, studies show that there are already too many of us to be sustainable. CO2 is not the only consequence.

Bryan
10/17/2008 5:19:53 PM
Most scientists now believe it's happening and we're causing it. But let's say global warming is beyond our control. There is still a limit to how many people should live here and we have the opportunity of preserving a lovely planet - even improving our habitat - by settling on a sustainable human population. Eventually, we have to.

Kazooter
10/17/2008 5:14:47 PM
According to studies I've seen, the historical increases in CO2 have always followed cyclical increases in temperature by many decades, suggesting CO2 is a result, not a cause of global warming. If true, this totally discredits those who would financially benefit from a human-caused global warming "crisis". It appears from the record that the warming itself is caused by sunspot activity (thus you have other planets warming to the same degree as earth). By all accounts, the cost of actually influencing the warming cycle would destroy the world's economy. Would it not make more sense to do what we reasonably can, then adapt to conditions we really cannot change?







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