Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Global Warming

Our inner solar system contains four rocky, terrestrial planets. Mercury, Venus, the Earth, and Mars. Mercury is so close to the Sun that its atmosphere dissipated shortly after its formation, due to it's low gravity, the high temperature, and the solar wind. An unstable, very tenuous atmosphere of molecular oxygen, hydrogen, and other trace elements exist there today.
The same thing happened on the Earth early in it's history, but our planet is much further away from the Sun, and has a higher gravitational pull, and a steady state was achieved with regard to our atmosphere. Our first atmosphere consisted mostly of hydrogen, helium, methane, and ammonia, similar to the present day atmosphere of Jupiter. 3.8 billion years ago traces of water could be detected. 3.4 billion years ago our atmosphere contained mostly nitrogen, and free oxygen did not rise until approximately 2.3 billion years ago, which evolved as direct result of a phenomena called life. Currently our atmosphere consists of roughly (by volume) 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases totaling a mass of about five quadrillion metric tons.
I know what your thinking. That's a lot of air!
Although it is certainly more than I'll breath in my lifetime, if you were to compare the Earth to an apple, then our planet's atmosphere is about as thick as the peal surrounding it.
The planet Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, and Mars is farther away. Both of these planets earlier in their history are believed to be much more clement than they are now. Streams of free flowing water at one time flowed over the surface of Mars, indicating a warmer planet, with a much greater atmospheric pressure. Oceans may have existed at some past time on Venus.
But something happened in the distant past. Something natural indeed, but also devastating, at least as the formation and maintenance of life is concerned.
Today Mars is a frigid desert, with no oxygen, no liquid water, no protection from the Sun's ultra violet light, an atmosphere one tenth of one percent of Earth's. Venus literally is hell, holding a crushing atmosphere 92 times more dense than our own, consisting of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, with a surface temperature exceeding 800 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than what is needed to melt lead.
Planet wide climate change is possible. We know that to be true.
Greenhouses are used by horticulturists to cultivate various flowers, trees, cacti, and shrubs in a somewhat warm environment. They work due to solar radiation entering through the glass or plastic roof and walls, which heats the air and soil, and the infra red radiation, or heat is retained by the glass or plastic roof and walls. It gets hot in there.
The gas carbon dioxide, as well as other gases in our atmosphere act as the glass or plastic roof and walls in a greenhouse. And when an excess of these "greenhouse gases" is allowed in our atmosphere it isn't hard to figure out what happens next... except if your a republican.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century the amount of carbon dioxide has increased from 280 PPM (parts per million) to the present value of 387 PPM. On average the amount of carbon dioxide put into our atmosphere corresponds to one ton per person living on this planet each year. That's a lot of CO2. The planet has been getting warmer since 1910. The decade between 1998 to 2007 is the warmest on record. Glaciers are melting in Greenland. There really is a Northwest Passage now. The Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, which is about the size of Connecticut, is breaking up, which is the largest slab of ice to do so there.
When global ice melts, sea levels rise.
This poses a problem for us humans. A big problem. Although we will never experience as great of a runaway greenhouse effect as that on Venus, the problem of global warming is one of the greatest our species has ever faced. Coastal areas could become inundated. Crops will fail in areas where they once thrived, and will thrive in places they once languished. A warmer planet will increase the fuel for its weather mechanism. The ocean will become more acidic, conversely the oceans will hold less oxygen which does not hold well for the life that exists there. Pestilence will increase. On and on.
Most of the current credible scientific opinion overwhelmingly agrees that global warming has been taking place over the last two hundred years. A recent survey by the University of Illinois at Chicago polled 3,146 earth scientists and 90% agreed that warming is taking place, and 82% agreed that human activity is a major contributor to this warming effect.
Really, this is not rocket science. It's not even high school algebra. The more greenhouse gases you dump into the atmosphere, the hotter it gets!
To better understand the impact global warming is having right now, on human lives and our economy please read the following article from Common Dreams at:
The only ones who do not agree that global warming is a threat are scientists (if you can call them that) who work for major carbon dioxide emitters, their bosses, and the Republican Party.
I've heard some of the wackiest denials of global warming spewing out of republican mouths. Global warming is occurring, but naturally. Global warming isn't occurring (Sean Hannity), our climate is actually getting cooler. Carbon dioxide cannot be a pollutant because it occurs in nature. We need more carbon dioxide, not less. Global warming is cyclical in nature, and therefore harmless. Wild fluctuation in atmospheric temperature have occurred throughout history. One moron claimed Greenland was called Greenland because it was once green (throughout recorded history Greenland has always been covered by glaciers, except possibly now). On and on. This is just a small sample, an inkling of the Republican mind set.
What difference could it possibly make if global warming were a naturally occurring phenomena, and not caused by humans (which is not the case)? Their argument is moot (not only that, it is irrelevant as well) as the results are exactly the same. All of the above consequences still apply! We are currently living in between ice ages. Would we ignore the practical aspects of a new ice age and freeze? I don't think so. Our species would fight it with every technology available to it (unless, of course, the Republican Party is still around at that time). The same should apply to global warming and its effects.
Except for the masking effects of the phenomena known as "Global Dimming," also caused by human activity, Hannity's position is too stupid to comment on.
Hydrogen cyanide appears in nature too, try sniffing it.
Most scientists believe we've got enough carbon dioxide in our atmosphere as it is, and a lot of it should go back into the ground where it came from.
Global warming due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide due to human activity is not cyclical in nature, and is therefore harmful.
Temperatures have fluctuated throughout history, and throughout most of history mankind was unable to do anything about it... now we can.
Argument after argument from the right wing can be knocked down like bowling pins. Why are the republicans so adamant concerning this subject (and every other bone-headed issue they champion)?
It will cost money, a lot of it, to tackle the problem, and cripple our economy. Or that's what they believe, or say they believe.
Even if that were true, which it is to a point, but changing to a green based technology and economy will offset the cost, and by the way, help solve the problem.
But that would mean change, and the republicans are the party of the status quo. They are terrified of change. They are willing to sacrifice the health and wellbeing of not only your children and grand children for the almighty buck, but are willing to do the same for their own as well. This is nothing short of sociopathic behavior, and the most irresponsible position imaginable.
To my republican friends, even if you are right, which you're not, but if you were, how could you possibly justify to your children, and to their children, the pollution in our skies (smog), the pharmaceutical chemicals in our waters, the poisons in our wells and drinking water?
What do you have to say to them?
But to you the problem simply does not exist.
How convenient.
And you keep getting paid.

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