Easy to see the cause when you know where to look
To the Editor:
Global warming is the adverse side effect of something great for Life, it's called the Green House Effect, and it is the only reason Earth isn't a frozen rock, spinning around a giant fireball, in a galaxy not so far away. Water, in gas form, Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous oxide along with a handful of industrial Chlorofluorocarbons blanket the Earth and trap the Sun's rays to the benefit of all Earth's living passengers. The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1824, only 75 years into the industrial revolution and 26 years before we notice the Earth's surface temperature begin to rise.
The Industrial revolution was the shift from man and oxen to machine. The earliest machines enjoyed a steady diet of coal. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution London burned so much coal that the black moth population exploded, the black moths were camouflaged on the soot-covered walls. Now, we burn coal mainly for electricity, to feed our modern machines. In Appalachia, the southern section of the Appalachian mountain range, we have scalped over five hundred mountains because of our insatiable thirst for electrical machinery. The US burns more than a billion tons of coal per year, China will burn over a billion tons of coal this year and India is on the way. When we burn billions of tons of coal we release billions of tons of carbon dioxide. One ton of coal releases 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide when burned.
In 1876 a man with the last name Otto, built the four-stroke engine that would be the proverbial father to our modern automobile engines. By the end of 1908 the Model-T was rolling off the assembly line, and the rest is history. Your average American driver drives 15,000 miles each year, and not every vehicle on the road is compact. In 2011 we, the U.S., burned 134 billion gallons of gasoline. 17.68 to 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced with each gallon of gasoline we burn, add that to the billions of gallons we burned over the last twenty years and, you will have the amount of carbon dioxide currently in atmosphere from U.S. consumption of gasoline; I am willing to bet that number is easily greater than a trillion tons of carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide has a conservatively estimated 20-200 year atmospheric lifespan dependant on forest and ocean health). The U.S. isn't the only nation that issues driver's licenses and more and more Asians, Africans, and South Americans are realizing their dream of mobility, and I'm not referring to the "Hoveround."
Hydraulic Fracturing has flooded the U.S. fuel supply with natural gas. Natural gas is composed mainly of methane. When methane is burned it converts to carbon dioxide, and water vapor. Though the carbon dioxide exchange rate is lower than that of burning gasoline, burning methane is still adding excess carbon dioxide to an atmosphere already highly concentrated with carbon dioxide. Methane is also a greenhouse gas and it is far more efficient at trapping the Sun's heat than carbon dioxide. The amount of methane in the atmosphere is already at a staggering 1800 parts per billion, up from 700 parts per billion in 1750, which was pre global warming. On average, in the U.S., each one of us will consume 185 pounds of meat, and a staggering 630 pounds of dairy. Eight percent of the methane added by humans to the atmosphere is from the management of livestock manure. Eleven percent of that methane is from mining coal. Our "disposable" lifestyle contributes another sixteen percent and thirty seven percent add by extracting natural gas and petroleum. When you drive past capped landfills the metal tubes pointing skyward serve the purpose of allowing methane to escape. Methane is also produced in nature through the biological act of decay and by seismic activity, but fifty percent of the methane released each year is released by one species, us.
With the basic knowledge of the greenhouse effect, it's not difficult to see why Earth's temperature is rising. When we add heat trapping particles to our atmosphere it is synonymous with adding insulation to your home. We, humans, have been adding billions upon billions of heat trapping particles to our atmosphere. We are the cause of global warming and until we commit to renewable energy the planet will only continue to warm. Cap and trade isn't the answer, but wind and solar are. Right now wind and solar power are still new, young sources of energy. Investing in them now ensures that wind and solar will continue to advance in generative capability; our children and grandchildren might drive electric cars, charged by the car's spinning wheels. At night their cars could be parked in garages attached to houses powered by solar siding and solar roofing. Their communities would harness the wind to power posts and lights and libraries, on a planet with a balanced temperature.
If we protect and expand our old growth forests by adapting to responsible forestry techniques like those used in the Redwood forests of California, we would have in place an air conditioning system that over many millennia has genetically evolved with the soul purpose of pulling carbon dioxide from the air. Our future is dependent upon the actions we take today. The question is not, "what will you bring to the future"; the question is, "What will we bring to the future?"