Planet Earth is precariously balanced between fire and ice, between the sun and the frigid depths of space.
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 in
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.
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.