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Climate change & other environmental concerns:

Introduction, Part 1 of two parts:
Cartoon. Webmaster's note.
Variation in Carbon Dioxide levels.
Scientists' warnings.

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A bit of humor: a climate change denier makes a point at a climate summit:

climate change cartoon 1

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Personal thoughts of the webmaster:

I recall reading a science fiction book perhaps 5 decades ago in which some scientist had developed a form of super steel that was so strong that it could not be drilled or machined in any way. Then it was found that if this piece of steel touched a ordinary piece of steel, the new piece would mutate and become super steel as well. The whole process got out of hand until every piece of steel on Earth could no longer be machined or drilled or welded. This caused massive hardship.

It was an interesting story. It got me to thinking whether an even more serious disaster might actually happen in the real world. For example, an artificial form of life might be created in a lab that is fatal to humans. If it escaped, and propagated, it could create a world-wide epidemic. It might aggressively propagate itself from human to human until there were no humans left alive on earth for it to infect and kill.

A similar phenomenon may actually be underway today. The highly industrialized nations in particular have been burning accelerating amounts of fossil fuels. This has caused the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) content in the atmosphere to increase. This, in turn, is causing climate change. The climate is becoming unpredictable in many areas of the world; tornados and hurricanes are more powerful. The world is also heating up steadily. These phenomena were once referred to as "global warming." It is now called "climate change."

The CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased by 70 parts per million (ppm) between 1959 and 2009. This value is expected to increase by another 115 to 615 ppm by the year 2100. The actual amount in the future will be determined by what action -- if any -- humans take to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, like gasoline in trucks and cars, coal in some electrical generating stations, natural gas for heating, etc.

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Variations in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels in the Earth's atmosphere:

The following NASA graph shows the rise in atmospheric CO2 during the past 400,000 years:

CO2 rise since 400,000 before present 2

The vertical scale is in parts per million (PPM). It is difficult to read; the values vary from 160 at the bottom to 500 at the top. For hundreds of thousands of years, the CO2 content has never exceeded 300 PPM. Lately, it has surged upwards and now exceeds 400 ppm.

Recent values of atmospheric CO2 have been continually measured by NOAA on the "Big Island" of Hawaii. Between 2012 and early 2016 their averaged data shows a steady increase of 2.8 parts per million each year. It reached 403 ppm during early 2016, and shows no signs of slowing down its rate of change:

recent rise in carbon dioxide levels in parts per million 3

The red line shows monthly values, which fluctuate during the year.
The black line shows a smoothed average.

This increase in the level of CO2 is causing an increase in the well-known "greenhouse effect." Just as a greenhouse structure allows the sun's rays to enter the building, and then traps heat inside, CO2< in the atmosphere traps the sun's heat across the surface of the earth, causing climate change and global warming. This is causing, and will continue to trigger, radically unusual and unpredictable climate fluctuations and weather disturbances.

Even if governments are able to overcome the influence of the well financed and dedicated climate change deniers, it may be impossible to stop and reverse the rise in carbon dioxide in time to prevent massive devastation caused by:

  • Continued melting of the glaciers,
  • A major rise in ocean levels,
  • Submerging costal cities under water,
  • Altered ocean chemistry and bleaching of coral which impact life forms that use coral reefs as habitat.
  • Raising air temperatures so high that some areas of the world will become unlivable without air conditioning.
  • Another mass extinction of living species on the Earth, etc.

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1981 until now: Scientists' early warnings to humanity:

Over three decades ago, James Hansen startled a U.S. Senate committee meeting in 1981 by saying that he was 99% certain that human activities were already warming the climate. Ironically, the speech was given during a stifling heat wave in Washington, DC. He co-authored an article in Science during August of that year that begins:

"Atmospheric CO2 increased from 280 to 300 parts per million in 1880 to 335 to 340 ppm in 1980, mainly due to burning of fossil fuels. Deforestation and changes in biosphere growth may also have contributed, but their net effect is probably limited in magnitude. The CO2 abundance is expected to reach 600 ppm in the [21st] ... century, even if growth of fossil fuel use is slow." 4

As noted in NOAA's graph above, the concentration has already exceeded 400 parts per million, and continues to rise.

On 1992-NOV-18, over 1,500 members of regional, national, and international science academies from 69 nations signed the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity. Its introduction states:

"Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about." 5

Over two decades have passed since this second warning was issued. The earth's environment has further degenerated. There have been a long series of updates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and from national and international science academies and scientific societies which consistently warn of continuing problems increasing in magnitude into the foreseeable future if we continue burning fossil fuels at an accelerating rate.

However, climate change deniers are actively trying to convince the population that the future of the world is not threatened. Some promote the idea that climate change is not occurring. Others say that it is happening, but that it is not caused by human activity and thus cannot be controlled or overcome. Others claim that the effects of humans on the earth are so puny that they cannot be altering the climate.

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This introduction is continued in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The climate change denier cartoon is by Joel Pett, who is the cartoonist at the Lexington Herald-Leader Newspaper. Used by permission, which we really appreciate. It is a gem.
  2. "Graphic: The relentless rise of carbon dioxide," NASA, 2016-APR-26, at: http://climate.nasa.gov/
  3. "Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2," NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, 2016-APR-05, at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/
  4. J. Hansen, et al., "Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide," Science, Volume 213, Pages 957-966, 1981-AUG-28. Abstract online at: http://science.sciencemag.org/
  5. "World scientists' warning to humanity," Union of Concerned Scientists, 1992-NOV-18, at: http://www.ucsusa.org/

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Rewritten: 2016-APR-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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