Pollution data and trends;
past species extinctions
The polluted environment and global warming:
The environment is polluted at an incredibly high rate, mainly through the
use of fossil fuels for the generation of energy in industrial activity, coal
burning, and car exhausts. This produces carbon dioxide and other harmful gases.
Since the industrial revolution 250 years ago, atmospheric CO2 concentrations
have increased by 31%, CH4 by 151%, and NO2 by 17%.- in actual values
increased from about 270-280 parts per million (ppm) to almost 380 ppm.
1 The current levels of
concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher than at
any time in the past 650,000 years, and the rates of increase are absolutely
exceptional - the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is expected to
increase by further 30% by 2050. 2
This is not surprising - every year we pump more than six billion tonnes of
carbon emissions, despite a general consensus that this contributes directly to
climate change. 3 CO2
remains in the atmosphere for a century or more. About three quarters of
greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels. Most of the rest (with one
exception) comes primarily from de-forestation of tropical rain forests. The one
exception is methane CH4. which is twenty times more powerful than
comes mostly from agricultural sources.
The injection of the pollutants into the atmosphere leads to the greenhouse
effect that makes the earth hotter. Because the so-called 'greenhouse gases' are
composed of molecules of three atoms or more - CO2, CH4, NO2, etc., they thicken
up the atmosphere and help trap incoming sunlight. While the planet has warmed
up only by 1oF (0.55oC)
in the past century, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
has predicted an average global rise in temperature of 1.4oC
to 5.8oC between the years 1990 and 2100.
Such a change would have a profound effect on the climate of the world - the
world and human civilization would not have enough time to adapt. The extreme
events to which climate change appears to have already contributed reflect an
average rise in global temperatures of only 0.6oC.
The year 2005 was the warmest year globally since records were kept, while,
according to the World Meteorological Organization, the increase in
temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any
century during the past 1,000 years. All of the warmest years have occurred
since 1990, including each year since 1997. 1
Industrialized countries with less than a quarter of the world's population
are responsible for about three quarters of the CO2 released by burning fossil
fuels which still provide almost 80% of the world's total energy needs.
5 This just reflects the fact
that, concentrated in the third world, nearly a third of today's world's
population have no electricity and about 2.5 billion people have only wood or
biomass for energy. Number one polluter is, of course, the United States, with
the largest emission of greenhouse gases of any country in absolute terms. It is
second after Australia in emissions per capita. With only less than 5% of world
population, US accounts for approximately 20 to 25% green-house gases. 6 In 2002, 288 million Americans
were producing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 2.6 billion
people in 151 poorer countries. It can get only worse: In 2003 the US emissions
were up 14% above those in 1990, and projected was a rise by further 12% over
the next decade. 7 The
quantity of nitrogen oxides released into the atmosphere from automobiles, power
plants, and various industries, doubled between 1950 and 1973, and the trend
According to Wikipedia:
"The White House has come under criticism for downplaying reports that
link human activity and greenhouse gas emissions to climate change, and
there was suspicion that a White House official and former oil industry
advocate, Philip Cooney, adjusted descriptions of climatic research that had
already been approved by government scientists. Of course, the White House
denied that Cooney watered down reports."
"in June 2005, State Department papers showed the administration thanking
Exxon executives for the company's 'active involvement' in helping to
determine climate change policy, including the US stance on Kyoto."
And what about Exxon? In his letter to the Guardian on 2005-JAN-29, Roger
"A million good reasons to doubt global warming - each and every one of
them a 25,000 dollar wad of U.S. bank note:
"Exxon makes $25 billion profit." (It was $40 billion in 2005.) Does anybody
still remember the days when the tobacco industry's own scientists pontificated
on the harmlessness of smoking? Roger Hicks wrote:
"The tobacco industry had the financial clout to employ clever but
unscrupulous (or ignorant) scientists and lawyers to help fight their
corner, rationalizing the irrational, defending the indefensible, and
justifying the unjustifiable." 10
Two cases of direct interference with reports on global warning have come to
light quite recently:
|In the US, according to an article in the Guardian of 2006-FEB-09,
George Deutsch (who worked for George Bush's re-election campaign) quit as
NASA's public affairs officer. In connection with his resignation it became
known that Deutsch's involvement with NASA was part of an intensifying
effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of public
information. Deutsch was linked to a campaign to stifle discussion by space
agency scientists on global warming - he was described as a 'bit player' in
a politically motivated campaign to stop scientists from speaking publicly
on global warming. For example, scientists were ordered to remove a posting
from the agency's website which showed that 2005 was the warmest year on
record, and were repeatedly told to add the word 'theory' at every mention
of 'big bang'. 11|
|In Australia, according to an article in the Guardian of 2006-FEB-14,
Graeme Pearman, a former government scientists and climate director for the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, claimed
that Australian officials stopped him raising concerns about climate change,
that he was gagged over it. He maintained that he was prevented from
speaking about the risks of climate change at least half a dozen times.
It is worth noting that the US and Australia are the only major
industrialized countries not to have signed the Kyoto Protocol on global
Possible linkage of past global species extinctions with C02
Popular science writer and paleontologist, Peter D. Ward, has written a book "Under a Green Sky: Global warming, the
great extinctions of the past and what they can tell us about our future."
The book cover features an attractive ocean view with a green sky and water.
Ward discusses the great extinctions of species that have happened during the
past 500 million years. The best known is the extinction in the Paleocene era
some 65 million years ago which caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Researchers have reached a near consensus that this extinction was caused by a
massive asteroid slamming into the Yucatán
Peninsula. Researchers had suspected that the other major extinctions were
cause by earlier asteroid collisions:
|100 M years: Cenomanian/Turonian|
|140 M years: Jurassic/Cretaceous Extinction|
|180 M years: Toarcian Extinction|
|195 M years: Triassic Extinction|
|250 M years: Permian Extinction|
|385 M years: Late Devonian Extinction|
|425 M years: Late Ordovician Extinction|
|460 M years: Late Cambrian Extinction|
However, there is no convincing geological evidence of repeated asteroid
impacts that correspond to these extinctions. A new theory has been recently
suggested -- called "Greenhouse Extinction." They start with what are called
flood basalts. These are massive volcanic eruptions of lava, either on land or
under the oceans. Some of these exceed 2000 cubic kilometers (480 cubic miles) in
volume. They release massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the
atmosphere, which causes the world's climate to heat up. This alters the oceans'
circulation, which leads to blooms of green sulfur bacteria. The bacteria
produces toxic amounts of hydrogen sulfide which reaches 2,000 times the present
amount. This destroys the ozone layer. The result is massive species extinction
as a result of the high temperatures and from the poisonous H2S
The Permian Extinction, which occurred 250 M years ago, was particularly
devastating. More than 90% of all species and nearly 97% of all living things
The correlation between CO2
variations and extinctions is extremely close. Ward writes:
"The key to climate
change seems to be both the level and the rate at which carbon dioxide rises in
The source of the change is immaterial. The world is now undergoing a sudden and
massive increase in CO2 levels due
to human activity. Ward
is concerned that continued increases will result in the disappearance of the
ice sheets, a rise in sea levels by 60 meters (200 feet), tropical diseases
flourishing in new regions of the world, a greenish tint to the oceans, H2S
buildup and mass species extinctions. The Cenomanian/Turonian extinction
occurred when the CO2 level was only
about 1,400 parts per million; the world's current CO2
level is about 380 ppm, and is rising rapidly.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Kirby Alex: "Climate Change: Uncharted Waters?" BBC News,
- McDonagh Sean, "The Death of Life: The Horror of Extinction,"
Columba Press, (2004). Overview: at:
- McDonagh Sean, "Care of the Earth Moves Higher on the Church Agenda,"
- Monbiot George, "Sleeping to Extinction," The Guardian, 2003-AUG-12.
- "Disposable Planet - Energy," BBC News, 2002, at:
- McDonagh Sean, "The Death of Life. A Challenge to Christians," at:
- Houghton John, "Global Warming is Now Weapon of Mass Destruction,"
The Guardian, 2003-JUL-28.
- Birch Charles, "Regaining Compassion," New South Wales University
- "Kyoto Protocol," Wikipedia, at:
- Roger Hicks, letter to the Independent, 2005-JUL-25.
- Goldenberg Suzanne, "Pro-Bush NASA official quits over false CV," The
- Goldenberg Suzanne, "I was gagged over climate change, says scientist."
The Guardian, 2006-FEB-14.
- Peter D. Ward,
"Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What
They Can Tell Us About Our Future," HarperCollins, (2007).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Copyright 2006 by Vladimir Tomek
Originally posted: 2006-JUN-25
Latest update: 2007-APR-18
Main author: Vladimir Tomek; article about Peter Ward is by B.A. Robinson