What is Global Warming? In the past several years, Global Warming has become one of the biggest debates, with scientists divided on if it exists, what (or who) is causing it, and if there is a solution. There are contradictory scientific studies and papers on all sides of this issue. Is it a man-made problem, meaning that each and every person’s carbon footprint makes a difference? Is it a bovine-made problem and every animal that produces bodily waste contributes to an increase in the methane in the atmosphere? Is it a "blip" on the natural climate cycle? Scientists have been studying whether or not the earth’s atmosphere has been in a warming trend because of gases "stuck" in the atmosphere, which prevents the earth’s heat from dissipating, commonly called the greenhouse effect. Simply stated, the greenhouse effect is the exchange of heat and gases between surface and atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is a natural occurrence; it is what keeps the earth at a habitable temperature, with the perfect amount of oxygen for humans, animals and plants. Scientists who can agree that global warming is a problem also agree that there is no real solution. The industrial years of pollution, natural volcanic activity and the increased population have all led to the gases in our atmosphere; conservation simply isn’t enough to reverse the damage. In short, the evidence indicates that the earth is warming up. Is it caused by man’s output of carbon, produced by our need for energy; or by animals output of methane?
Your Carbon Footprint Most people are sensitive to the fact that their daily living, in some way, contributes to the pollution of the environment. We take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2) and emissions from factories, cars, and mining operations are but a few of the sources of CO2. The CO2 gases get trapped in the earth’s atmosphere, causing unhealthy air that simply has no where to go. The effect that each of us has on the environment is called our Carbon Footprint. Many factors contribute to our individual carbon footprint, including where we live, the size of our home, how old our appliances are, what we drive and how much air travel we do. While there is no way to eliminate our carbon footprint to slow climate change; there are things we can do to reduce the size of our "shoe". In order to reduce our carbon footprint, we must first know what size we are. There are carbon calculators online ( carboncounter. org) that are simple to use and will quickly show you how much your carbon burden is. By knowing what our personal impact is, we can then work on reducing it. There are many organizations that continually endeavor to offset and mitigate the damages by CO2 emissions, including wind power, reforestation projects and solar power projects, including Conservation International, Nature. org and Carbon Counter. org. Working together to individually reduce our personal carbon footprint can only be good for our planet, our future and the future of generations to come.
Deforestation: Making the Planet a Warmer Place When I think of deforestation, I think of the vast "slash and burn" operations that were carried out in the 1970’s, and I think about how it affected the wildlife more than our atmosphere. The earth has immense forests, which play an important part in the sustainability of habitation. Trees and plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in the spring and summer; in the fall, they drop their leaves which give off carbon dioxide. This cycle seems to keep the CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels in the atmosphere balanced throughout the year. If only human’s could have this impact! Without leaf cover, the albedo (surface reflectivity) changes; what used to be lush and green (rainforests) becomes dry and reflects the rays of the sun back up into the biosphere, trapping heat. Without the forests creating oxygen, the balance in our atmosphere becomes tenuous. The balance of the gases in the earth’s sub stratosphere is delicate, and their stability is of great importance to anyone who needs air to breathe. Human activity, like cutting down forests and overgrazing land, can change the climate, not only where it is happening, but around the world. Rising temperatures in the atmosphere have long-term effects on the ocean and the polar icecaps which have the potential for wreaking havoc with the climate worldwide. It is of utmost importance that the forests worldwide are protected; by protecting this vast resource, we protect our planet and our future. Plant trees!
The Role of CFC’s Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a group of chemical compounds that has been shown to have caused the ozone holes in the stratosphere over both the North and South poles. A seasonal hole appears above Antarctica in September. These holes in the atmosphere allow the sun’s rays to enter the earth without a protective layer to shield us, which may cause an increase in skin cancer. CFCs are an aggregation of chemical compounds that include alkanes and haloalkanes. These chemicals are used in aerosol spray cans, refrigerants, foam blowing (to make packing foam and foam cups), fire extinguishers and solvents to clean electronic equipment. The use of CFCs began in the 1920, when carbon tetrachloride was used in fire extinguishers, until the end of World War II. In 1928, Thomas Midgley developed CFCs as a replacement for a mixture of ammonia, chloromethane and sulfur dioxide that was commonly used as a refrigerant. The CFC was superior to the former compounds because it was non-toxic, had a low boiling point and was generally non-reactive. CFCs continued to be used, mostly by the military and in firefighting, until 1974 after the journal, ¬Nature by Molina and Rowland, showed their findings regarding the ozone layer depletion. They won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for that work. They found that by adding hydrogen and creating hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), made the compound less stable in the lower stmosphere, which meant they would break down before they reached the ozone layer. Eventaully, the chlorine would be taken out, creating HFC with an even less stable compound. Scientists show that the decreases in CFCs have been helping the ozone layer, particularly over Antarctica, and predict that that particular hole will close permanently by the year 2050.
Global Warming Worries Lead to New Alternative Energy Ideas The fear of global warming has led to some interesting alternative energy ideas for the future that would have less impact on the environment. Constant research takes place daily for sources of energy that utilize our natural resources, have little repercussion on our atmosphere, cost less and are naturally renewable. There has been much research in the area of solar power, tapping geothermal heat inside the earth, harnessing the power of the tides as an energy sources and wind turbines, but scientists are going further into their imaginations to develop energy from sources never thought of before. For instance; scientists are studying marine algae in the hopes that they could generate power from the methane given off by rotting algae; the methane could then be harnessed to provide methane for burning to power industrial needs for energy. Corn is being tested as a fuel (ethanol) for cars, as well as home heating sources, and there are many other areas that you may not have thought about. Early studies are looking at falling rain and how it might be used to generate power (same premise as harnessing wave power). I’m not a scientist, so I can’t even begin to explain how or why this might work. The idea I like best is powering our own personal IPod, cell phone and home computer by walking power. A leg brace, equipped with an electricity generator, gets the power from your every step. Need it charged quickly? Go for a long run; need a little power to power my laptop to get me through the meeting, go walk an hour!
Earth Day - April 22, 2008 You probably have noticed Earth Day on your April calendar and you may have wondered what, exactly, is it? Earth Day came about after six years of effort from then Senator Gaylord Nelson, who, back in the 1960s, had the foresight to look at the long term impact of pollution on the environment. He was instrumental in getting his message out to college students, who took this issue on with concern and enthusiasm for this project. Earth Day became a National Awareness day on January 20, 1970, with the date set for celebration as April 22 of every year. In 2007, it is estimated that one billion people recognized Earth Day in some way. Internationally, Earth Day is celebrated at different times, in approximately 175 countries. In the northern hemisphere, it is observed in the spring; in the southern hemisphere, Earth Day is observed in the fall. The purpose of Earth Day was to raise awareness of environmental issues, promote education about the issue, and to advocate for a healthy and sustainable planet. Many schools have taken Earth Day a step further to incorporate extended teaching of environmental issues and observe Earth Week. To find events in your area, or to get ideas for helping you commemorate this special day, go to earthdaynetwork. com. Get involved in helping in your community, whatever the needs may be. Every city has a park, street or stream that needs cleaning up, and it takes only a few volunteers to make a huge difference. Take the time to learn about how you can help preserve this planet for future generations. They will thank you for it!
Even Scientists Don’t Agree Anywhere that theory goes, disagreement is bound to follow. Any set of facts can be interpreted differently, as the theories of global warning prove. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, two of the definitions of the word theory include: the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another; and a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena. There are many "facts" about the earth’s atmospheric changes; many scientists believe we are experiencing the start of a warming cycle that could change the climate so dramatically that humankind would cease to exist. Other scientists, using the same data, draw vastly different theories: the atmosphere is experiencing a harmless blip in its natural and normal cycle and that humans only minimally affect the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. There is vast evidence on both sides of the argument, and there seems to be very little middle ground. Al Gore’s "Inconvenient Truth" and Spencer R. Whert’s "The Discovery of Global Warming" came to the forefront in warning us about global warming; Fred Singer, former Chief Scientist with the US Weather Program and Professor Wilfred Beckerman, former member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution are just a few of the scientist who view the data from the opposite angle. There are innumerable articles, papers and books that support both sides of the global warning issue. The only common ground in these opposing camps seems to be that the data fails to back enough years to be absolutely indisputable, and that, as good as they are, computers cannot model nature.
Being "Green" It seems almost inconceivable to think that starting my car and letting it run for five minutes to get the heat or air conditioning going has any effect on the earth’s pulse, but when you multiply that millions of times, there’s no doubt that it has a serious effect. Simple things that we do, or don’t do, have an effect on our planet’s precious atmosphere. How many times a week do you go to the coffeehouse and get your coffee in a paper or cardboard cup? You might have thought about how many years it takes for that cup to decompose, but have you thought about the energy that went into the production and transportation of that cup? Multiplied by...? Do you reduce, re-use and recycle? Make it a goal to reduce the amount of garbage you produce by recycling and composting. Your town office or city hall will provide you with a list of how to separate your items for recycling. Every item that you can re-use or recycle is one less item in the landfill. One of the simplest ways to help is to purchase and use cloth shopping bags. The hard part is remembering to take them out of the car and into the store, but once you get into the habit, it becomes second nature. Resolve to not accept plastic bags in a store. Traveling in a gas-powered vehicle as little as possible is a great way to conserve. Walk or bike whenever and wherever you can; it’ll help the planet and your health. If you live in the city, use public transportation. Likewise, if you live in the country, carpool to work and instead of making several trips a week to run errands, save them for one trip. If you take the time to think about your daily activities, and how you can do them a little differently, you may find yourself not only helping the environment, but helping your wallet. Do only full loads of laundry and dishes; cut your shower by two minutes; switch to energy-saving light bulbs; turn your refrigerator and air conditioner up a single degree and turning off your electronic devices at night are all painless ways to help. Challenge yourself to think before you act for a few days and you will surprised at how easy it is to begin the process of going green.
Why you should care about Global Warming This blue-green planet we live on, called Earth, as far as scientist can tell, is the only planet that can sustain human life. The atmosphere has the perfect mix of air that we need to breathe and that plants and trees need for survival. The earth is the perfect distance from the sun, allowing temperatures optimal for habitation of millions of specials of animals and plants, and it keeps the planet’s vast oceans at a temperature where the many species of fish survive. In short, the planet Earth supports every species in the food chain, from the bottom to the top. If the planet were to cool permanently, even a few degrees, there would be vast problems created. For instance, what if snow came earlier and stayed later in the Midwest; production of the grains grown there would decrease sharply, creating not only a grain shortage, but a meat shortage as well. More importantly, what would happen if the earth were to heat up several degrees permanently? The ocean water temperature would no longer support plankton, which support fish, which support birds, and so on up the food chain. The weather would greatly change; as the atmosphere heats, rivers and oceans evaporate. The levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere would increase, making the quality of our air, the air that you and I breathe everyday, unsafe. Every degree that our atmosphere changes is harmful to the life cycle of all humankind in some way. Think Globally!
Earth Hour Created to promote awareness of the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, EarthHour. org used the simple action of turning off the lights in Sydney, Australia for one hour on March 31, 2007 to call attention to Global warming. Over 2.2 million residents and in excess of 2100 business turned off their lights for one hour; the results were a 10.2% reduction in energy in the city. Armed with this knowledge, the organization went around to globe to spread the word and to arrange for Earth Hour to take place in cities all over the world. On March 29, 2008, major cities, including Dubai, San Francisco, Bangkok, Chicago, Tel Aviv, Manila, Copenhagan and Toronto participated in Earth Hour. Savings varied from city to city, but the end result was an approximate savings of 8.4%. In Bangkok electricity usage was decreased by 73.34 megawatts which, over one hour, is equivalent to 41.6 tons of carbon dioxide. Earth hour is about awareness. If every person remembered to shut off lights in empty rooms at home or in the office, took a slightly shorter shower and walked to the coffee shop instead of driving, it would make a difference in our demand for electricity. If businesses turned off copiers and computers at night instead of leaving them on standby power, the savings would add up, not only for the environment but for their checkbooks as well. Mark your calendar for March 28, 2009 and join the fight against global warming. Together, we can make a difference.