Copyright © Brent Silby 2006
A few years ago I wrote an article on global climate change (see http://www.def-logic.com/articles/earth_survival.html). While researching the article, I came to the conclusion that Earth was on the brink of entering a "run-away greenhouse effect" period.
The idea behind "run-away greenhouse effect" is quite simple. The climate warms slightly, which alters the weather patterns. We get long dry spells, which turn forests into fire risk areas. The weather changes bring about more lightning storms, which can cause forest fires. Burning forests put more CO2 into the atmosphere--CO2 is a heat trapping gas. In addition to this, the result of forest fires means there are fewer trees on Earth. Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. So not only do we have more heat trapping gas in the atmosphere, we also have fewer trees that remove CO2. The planet warms up further, which results in more fires. Other CO2 absorbing forms of life die out, and the planet warms up even further. Eventually we end up with a run-away greenhouse effect which cannot be reversed.
Recent findings (commissioned by the U.K and backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair) indicate that global climate change is more serious than anyone had previously thought. The finding can be interpreted as showing that it may be too late to halt the progression of global climate change. Does this mean Earth is moving towards a run-away greenhouse effect? There is, as yet, no definite answer to that question. However, it seems possible. Research shows that the Arctic permafrost is melting for the first time in over 100,000 years. Arctic ice is thawing at an alarming rate. Antarctica has been called "an awakened beast" as it starts to melt and alter ocean temperatures (and levels). Scientists worst-case scenarios predict that over 1 billion people will die as a result of climate change within the next hundred years. And those left behind will be living in dire circumstances--with little food, unpredicable weather, and tropical viruses reaching pandemic proportions.
What can we do? There has been the suggestion that we need to reduce CO2 emmission from transport and factories to pre-industrial levels. I don't know how this will be possible in a short timeframe, but I think it is imperative that we make the attempt. The problem is that many nations believe that their economy will suffer if we attempt to reduce CO2 emmissions. This seems naive, since the economy will almost certainly suffer more if farming becomes impossible and people live in starvation. Nevertheless, I think it is unlikely that we will see quick action from governments and business. It is up to people to make change.
If people boycott fossil fuels then economics will be affected which will force companies to change. If people eat less meat (billions of cows makes billions of tonnes of methane--another greenhouse gas) then there will be less demand for beef, which means fewer cows will be farmed. This would reduce another harmful emmission.
We need to stand up for ourselves. We need to make the change ourselves. We cannot rely on our governments so we need to act. And it is vital that we do so. It is our planet. Lets save it.
Copyright © Brent Silby 2006