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Original Article on Global Warming

Global Warming IconGlobal Temperature

Posted on August 03,2006

Every day we are bombarded with the news of how the earth is warming up. That hurricanes are turning into monster storms because of global warming. Trade in your large SUV's and save us all from an unimaginable catastrophe! We are corrupting the earth with our gas guzzling, CO2 spewing vehicles. We are melting the glaciers and polar ice-caps, creating large amounts of melt-water. Melt-water is fresh water, and is going to interfere with the ocean currents and cause an 'Ice Age'. WE ARE DOOMED!

What is particularly interesting about all of this hysteria is that the basis for most of these claims is rooted in good, old-fashion, hard science. While the climate scientists are trying to understand the dynamics of the climate changes here on earth, political interests take these findings, and embellish them. Political interests motive is to gain enough popular following so they can influence governments.

There can be little doubt that the earth has warmed over the past decades, so the hype is believable. This political hype is laced with scientific fact, persuading those who receive the information to agree with both the facts and the political hype. There is a large contingent of followers who faithfully believe that the United States is too big, too powerful, and therefore must be brought down from its lofty perch. Global warming is just another tool in their arsenal to accomplish degrading the United States. The recruited followers of these political organizations are well meaning people who really believe that the United States is the big reason for global warming. However, these followers are not motivated for the same reasons fostered by the promoters of the hype. In fact, these followers are fervently intent on saving the world from a cataclysmic disaster, politics be damned.

The truth of the matter is that the United States leads the way in solving the part of 'global warming' that is attributable to human activity. The greenhouse gases of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC's) and other high heat absorbing gas emissions are tightly regulated, and have been since their discovery as a potent ozone shield degrader and greenhouse gas. It was no small expense to convert from the Freon refrigerants to the less harmful Suva refrigerants. Everyone was impacted from the manufacturers to the end user. Special schools had to be set up to educate the service people in the refrigeration business about how to extract and recover the bad refrigerant, and how to convert to the new equipment. It was a huge commitment from all concerned as well as billions of dollars.

At the present, CO2 (Carbon-dioxide) is front and center in the debate over global warming. This author accepts the premise that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and has the potential to raise global temperature. However, there is a caveat that recognizes that CO 2 is not in the same league as water vapor when it comes to heat absorption. It is serious non-the-less and we realize it is suicidal to allow CO 2 to run amok, because it can certainly increase the Earth's average surface temperature. Climatologist are making the case now for 'Global Warming' and the chief suspect is increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere.

All of the above is common public knowledge, but I wanted to delve a little deeper into what is happening with CO2 and what human activities are affecting the increase accumulations in the atmosphere. CO2 is just one of the many manifestations of the carbon cycle. It gets into the atmosphere from a variety of sources which include: (1) Animal breathing and flatulence (even human), (2) the burning of fossil fuels, (3) volcanoes, and (4) decaying vegetation and animals.

The CO2 controllers consists primarily of two major systems; certain plankton, which photosynthesize, and vegetation. The hysterical ones only see one side of the problem, namely the emission side provided by human activities. Worrying about the emissions created by human activity does bring awareness to the problem but a balanced approach is desperately needed if the intention is to defeat global warming. Balance has to include the vegetation side of this equation.

Trees and the rest of the plant world are huge containers of carbon. While the carbon is locked up in a tree trunk or plant, it is not in the atmosphere warming the earth. Even the mowed grasses, pampas grasses, lily pads, potatoes and etc. store vast quantities of carbon both above and below the ground. Plants and the phytoplankton do yeoman's work at utilizing and thus consuming atmospheric CO2. Why is the work of plants so important? They are nature's way of controlling the air we breathe. They take in CO2 and give off oxygen. The carbon is stored within the plants by being converted into vegetable matter. Remember that all living things are based on carbon.

From my perspective things are going to get worse if humans don't quit making war on plants. Making war on plants? Maybe not in a literal sense, but the way we stifle the places where plants grow, you would think that we had a major dislike for them. This is the side of the CO2 equation that needs addressing. Think of all the five to ten acre parking lots at say a Target Store, a Home Depot, and etc. Not picking on these stores but we have tied up literally millions of acres in the United States alone for our automobiles. Every house, garage, gas station, drugstore, in fact lets just say that every building we have covers land that was once occupied by plants. The lost acreage is a very large number. An acre is approximately two hundred and ten feet squared. An interstate highway is approximately two hundred feet in concrete across, so it follows that every two hundred feet or so of roadway is an acre of lost space for plants. We have literally tens of thousands of miles of highways contributing to the assault on plants.

I'm not advocating we quit driving, or that Walmart and other large stores tear up their parking lots. But I do see opportunities for improvement. Instead of empty paved areas, a row of trees could easily be planted between parking rows. In short, in addition to the emission side of the CO2 cycle, we need to respect the very things that are helping to reduce CO2.

There needs to be an end to the political rancor and real solutions in controlling CO2 brought forward. Every new house built could have a survey made as to how much additional vegetation must be maintained to keep the carbon footprint neutral. This is a project that everyone can help with. For instance, take sidewalks. Sidewalks are useful and enhance our local areas, what is missing though, is any thoughtful parallel thinking about planting hedges or shrubs along the sidewalks to make up for the plants that the sidewalks prohibit.

While it is easy to cast an accusing look at those who drive large cars and SUV's, the would be accusers time would probably be better served to see that they are doing their part. Everyone should look at his or her 'carbon footprint' and ask the following questions.

a) Do I have window box planters?

b) Do I have enough houseplants to neutralize emissions from the humans and animals that live there?

c) Have I planted enough trees in the yard to compensate for the area of ground taken by the house?

d) When I happen upon a store with a large concrete parking area without trees, do I continue to support that store?

e) Have I encouraged my state to plant trees along the highways and byways?

f) Is my city allowing construction of new buildings without requiring 'carbon neutrality'?

These questions are not trivial. Plants are one of the major tools in nature's toolbox for combating global warming. Our way of life is worth maintaining, and with just a little effort, we will be just fine. CO2 is a very tolerated gas. Because of its weak heat absorbing abilities, it takes a tremendous volume of it to affect out climate. There is time to neutralize our activities before any cataclysmic event. But we need to get started. I recommend everyone read about the carbon cycle, and do those simple things to improve their carbon footprint.

One last note, please don't take away from this article that I think it is okay to drive unnecessarily, to buy large gas-guzzlers, or not try and get away from using fossil fuels. The emission side of this equation is just as important as the CO2 consumption side. However, we cannot continue to hit on the CO2 emission side while neglecting all the other things that can be done to prevent trouble. Plants of all types are important allies in keeping our planet habitable. I see using plants as vital to managing our carbon footprint.



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Here are other articles by Robert related to this topic.

Coming Ice Age---Solar radiation plays more of a part in climate change than the rise in CO2. Empirical data points more to global cooling than warming.

Our Changing Earth-- The Earth is changing - for better or worse. Human activities are reshaping our planet. We may elect to allow the changes or -- do what is necessary to maintain it as is.

Ecosystem at Risk-- Trying to look the other-way in the face of logical and scientific evidence demonstrating human activity is reshaping our climate and the ecosystem only wastes intellectual pursuit.

Heat Footprint
As our population expands, the need for energy and its sidekick heat will also increase. It is our increasing heat footprint that puts us most at risk. CO2 accumulation will abate as we shrink our heating footprint.