May 13, 2009

Period 6

Final Project: Essay


The world warms and the world cools. So it has always been and so it shall ever been. Despite an attitude to the contrary, man's knowledge does not encompass all that which is in existence.

As is their nature, scientistÕs first reaction after having recognized a warming trend was to seek out the perpetrator; and, as is also their nature, upon discovering a potential cause a great many of them became thoroughly fixated upon the fresh catch. This tendency of the scientific community has for all of history posed a great obstacle to the acquisition of true knowledge and at times caused centuries-long delays and setbacks. Perhaps one day we will look back and say that this was such a case, I certainly believe it to be a possibility.

As mentioned at the beginning of the discourse, the question currently subject to scientific investigation is the occurrence of global warming. There exists, supposedly, consensus that our world is indeed warming. Perhaps it is so, the time seems right and the graphs all seem to concur.

The prime suspect is carbon dioxide, a substance released in nearly every process even remotely involving the activity of living beings, including us. Especially ourselves. Man through direct means and vastly more indirect means releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas known to retain solar heat exceptionally well, rapidly.

Billions of people exhale the gas every moment. We release it through combustion every time we cook, every time we flip a switch, every time that a factory produces a product. These activities are solely ours and receive great popular attention, but what of the other causes? We clear thousands of acres of forest every year releasing enormous amounts of the gas. We also eat meat. Consider this: you eat meat every day. How many animals a year, multiplied by how many people? We hoard unnatural amount of livestock, tens of billions at least releasing incalculable amounts of carbon dioxide and the more potent GHG methane into the atmosphere.

Is carbon dioxide at fault? The arguments are certainly logical, however solar abnormalities also seem to correlate with many changes of temperature. The sun is the source of the atmospheric heat which concerns us so, yet it is not conceivably a manipulability variable so scientists (the lazy buggers!) leave it at that. Another source of heat for our planet is the Earths core. To my knowledge there are no definitive studies of its effects on our planets temperature fluctuations. Once again: lazy scientists.

So thus far we have established that the world is growing warmer and that man is a considerable contributor to the carbon dioxide factor, but what that change may entail is the truly worrisome issue.

We are not certain of the issue, but the effects of global warming could be quite drastic. Some species would fail to adapt, so ecosystems will certainly shift and change. Precipitation patterns may change, and with the melting of some glaciers, continental fresh water will not remain as it is. Some regions may see more rain; others may lose vital river and lake waters. The political dysfunctions that these changes in resources may bring could reach extremes. War can probably be expected from both hard hit and smaller nations. The coming changes are seemingly inevitable and quite a bit unpleasant sounding.

There is plenty of hope left of course. The net damage may be diverted, reversed, or may even be nothing to worry about in the first place. If all is managed properly then all of this global warming stuff will be almost as simple a matter as turning down the thermostat.

No matter what the damage, we can assuage it to some degree. Move people away from flood prone areas, expand protection and captive breeding programs for endangered animals. Provide aid to those suffering from drought and famine. We will curb our emission levels and increase the availability of alternative energy. These changes will cost large amounts of money, but as the richest nation in the world we have a responsibility to cover our fair share of the expenses. Among ways to curb emissions are taxes and limitations on gasoline and promotion of alternative fuels of all kinds. Europe has taxed gasoline to the point that more people are now buying diesel, ethanol laced gas, or hybrid and electric cars. We tax our gas as well; a little bit of an increase would hardly be noticed.  Some people want to use kelp derivatives as fuel and have found it to be enormously more efficient than ethanol, some people run cars on cooking oil, the point is that if you can burn it than you can probably also run an engine on it.  Green energy alternatives are being used and promoted right here in our very home of Barstow: solar and wind energy. France depends on nuclear energy (not as green as weÕd like it to be) but has an increasingly large amount of energy coming from tide generators. The possibilities are simply endless, countless things produce energy in our world and can be harnessed to ensure a future with less emission of dangerous substances the effects of which we cannot be certain.

The reversal of GHG emission trends will follow the steps of diverting global warming damage but also go a little bit further. Although tricky for matters of practicality, there are a number of ways by which carbon is removed from the environment naturally and also a few artificial ways currently being explored by scientists that we can utilize.

            Trees and other plants, of course, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; so keeping our planet quite literally green is key to keeping healthy.  There is plankton all throughout the oceans of the world that also use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis. Scientists have concluded that planktonÕs air cleaning power can be augmented by lacing large tracts of the oceans water with iron, a nutrient vital to plankton growth. Trouble is thatÕs a lot of iron to put into the sea! This one may not be used very extensively.

            Also intriguing are some large, expensive air filters that use electrically charged ions to pull carbon out of the air and onto panels in the filter. Although costly both to produce and use, the filters are very effective and offer an interesting option: carbon dioxide recycling. The yucky stuff stuck to the filters can be used in actual greenhouses or converted chemically into a whole myriad of compounds. Gunk from this machine could end up anywhere from compost to diamonds. Interesting, eh?

            Although it is important for us to take all of the fore-mentioned precautions to avoid the drastic potential effects of global warming, in all truth, it may not be that bad. Consider it this way: cold kills crops, cold kills kids of pneumonia, and colder cold seasons keep us in instead of busy. Rising global temperatures mean fewer harsh winters.

            Plants like both warm temperatures and carbon dioxide. Plants are at the bottom of the food chain, if they prosper than so do all of us. Warmer atmospheres evaporate more water. That eventually translates into more rain, which crops also like. So global warming could actually relieve world hunger in arctic and arid countries.

            Well-fed people prosper and have less reason to fight wars. While not fighting wars, the world can fight diseases, poverty, and plenty of other bad things. See how good things sort of come in chains?

            It may be somewhat uncomfortable for us people, but there is this wonderful thing called ingenuity that helps us to adapt to our environment without having to evolve like more primitive animals. It helped us invent the cooler, the little icemaker in the fridge and plenty of refrigerants and refreshing drinks.

            Mankind is not going to die off because of a few measly degrees. We have technology to ensure our future. There are no bounds to what human ingenuity can achieve, we could even turn this warming trend into a cooling trend if we darn well wanted to. Perhaps that is the reason that politicians donÕt seem to be taking this whole climate change thing seriously.

            We will still have to help a few endangered animals to cope. We have to become responsible and informed users of far fewer GHG emitting fuels than we currently use to keep the warming of the planet from getting out of control.

            So in conclusion: We have established that the planet is apparently warming and that man contributes greatly in a variety of ways both naturally and otherwise to carbon dioxide buildup in the air.

            We can expect some harmful effects of global warming this century and have a responsibility to soften, or if possible prevent, these negative changes. The future is not all depressing, though. A little warming could actually do the planet a significant amount of good as we have demonstrated. Also, technology will save us much of the associated discomfort and will aid in the stabilization of our dear planets fragile balance. To quote Spock, live long and prosperity but donÕt feel too anxious about global warming, either.