Nature and Environment

Because at 160,000 years, the party is just getting started.

Add to My MSN

Why Life Exists on Earth: A New Perspective on Carbon Emissions

12/19/2013 10:51:00 AM

Tags: climate science, fossil fuel energy, Kansas, Toby Grotz

Planet Earth is precariously balanced between fire and ice, between the sun and the frigid depths of space.Nature Is Under Threat Carbon-based life forms exist on this planet because there is a balance between the amount of carbon that is continually cycled within the ecosphere. Transpiration and emission of carbon from land and sea into the atmosphere must be balanced by absorption of carbon into the oceans and their life forms and into the land and its life forms. This is called the Carbon Cycle, which is taught in middle school Earth science classes.

If more carbon is emitted than absorbed, or if more carbon is absorbed than emitted, the Earth either fries or freezes. Balance must be maintained for life to exist on this planet

Now comes man and cuts down the forests on a planetary scale. Where the cedar trees were once so thick you could not see the sky, today there is a desert in Lebanon. Vast tracts of land like the Great Plains and the rain forests of Africa and South America, which were once carbon sinks, no longer participate in the carbon cycle. Here in North America, the Sonoran desert is spreading northward out of Mexico and is poised to consume the Great Plains. No more corn, no more wheat.

Mankind’s use of fossil fuels during the last 200 years has dumped millions of years of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere in the form of Carbon Dioxide. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, 315 gigatons of carbon have been added to the atmosphere, leaving the carbon cycle 315 gigatons out of balance. Even more troubling, that imbalance is increasing by 5 gigatons a year due to fossil fuel emissions. Just by burning gasoline in this country, we are releasing 8 times more CO2 than all the volcanoes on Earth combined.

On May 10, 2013, a potentially fatal landmark was hit. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has now reached 400 parts per million — a 53 percent increase over pre-industrial levels and a concentration not seen on Earth during mankind’s existence. This increase in carbon has created an enormous imbalance, disrupting the climate and causing increasingly warm temperatures. CO2 concentrations must remain balanced not only in the atmosphere but in the in the human body. A 53 percent change in CO2 blood levels will result in sickness, and death can be the result.

Earth is a closed system, a terrarium as it is, floating in space. Life depends on a balanced ratio of gases inCoal Factory Emissions our environment. Carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere traps heat. In effect, we are adding more insulation to our home while heat from the sun continues to enter and warm us.  As we all know, the more insulation we add to our houses, the less heat gets out. The higher CO2 levels trap the heat and the temperature rises. As a result, USDA Plant Hardiness zones are moving north more than 100 miles every 20 years. On Venus, the high level of CO2 in the atmosphere has resulted in a surface temperature too hot to support life. Astronomers refer to conditions on Venus as the "Runaway Greenhouse effect.

Mankind’s survival as a species requires a radical change in outlook. We would do well to live by the words of Chief Seattle, who said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

The result of mankind’s activity and the effect on the web of life has been stated more bluntly by Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund: “Future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”

There is no escape. Prepare for it, and make the needed changes to prevent a runway greenhouse effect so that future generations may survive.

Further Reading

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunshine by Thom Hartman

On Thin Ice by Mark Bowman about Lonnie Thompson

Scientific American magazine:

“The Physical Science behind Climate Change,” August 2007.

 “How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?,” March 2005.

“Global Climate Change,” April, 1989.

Related Content

A Creative and Resourceful Grandmother During the Industrial Revolution

A transplanted Choctaw and Southerner, a grandmother shows her strength and creativity during the In...

Zoned Out: How Climate Change Will Affect Your Gardening Choices, Part 1

How fast climate change will require you and your descendants to move north in order to keep farming...

Make Your Garden Work More Efficiently

Keeping your garden tools organized can help you be more efficient in your work in the garden.

The Dangers of Industrial Farming

As modern farms increase production using monoculture crops, the nutritional value of the harvests d...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.