PREFACE AND A PERSONAL NOTE
I love nature and the environment. I'm an avid hiker. I've spent days at 11,000 feet in the Sierras. I've spent days in the Mojave Desert (a misunderstood part of nature). I love plants and animals and birds. I have dogs and cats. I intentionally plant my yard with vegetation the butterflies and bees enjoy.
I say this because in writing this I've been called an "environmental Nazi". But to me it's the opposite. Clarity in identifying the problems can help find solutions. So I just wanted to lend an understanding of my perspective.
Dirty diesel trucks spewing particulate carbon pollution is a bad thing and yes we should do something about that. I like to breathe clean air. Coal mining destroys the environment and it is dirty to burn using old technology. We should do something about both of those problems. Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement and we should fight the good fight, even if it costs extra money, to keep the air and environment clean. I support that.
In a cleaner and better world let's not confuse toxic emissions and other pollution with Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Confusing the two works against us by misdirecting our focus on the true problems. Without CO2 there would be no plant life, no food, therefore no us. So let's identify the true problems and work to solve those and not demonize the vital CO2. Hopefully with politics aside... read on :)
We have all been taught in school about the natural cycles of the earth.
For example, water evaporates from the oceans, comes down as rain, form rivers and drains back into the ocean. It's a cycle.
Oxygen is breathed in by animals, combined with carbon and released as carbon dioxide back into the air, where plants release the oxygen back for us to breath and use the carbon to grow. It's a cycle.
And, of course, carbon has it's own cycle where we eat the plants and then release the carbon back into the air when we breath.
All this is necessary for the happy balance of plant and animal life on earth.
Water cycles. Oxygen cycles. Carbon cycles. But... the carbon cycle has a major problem other cycles don't. Carbon is absorbed by plants which die and then become buried, or in the case of the oceans, buried on the ocean floor, forever. (This is called "carbon sequestration"). Oxygen and water cycle mostly without sequestration, meaning the amount in the environment never really changes.
The only natural source that exists to replenish the lost carbon is volcanoes. Volcanoes do not produce nearly enough to replenish the sequestered carbon.
What does this mean? It means that due to the constant loss of carbon from the atmosphere over the last millenia we have seen the lowest levels of carbon (in the form of CO2) that the earth has ever experienced in its history. Our discovery of oil and burning it to release the CO2 has been our opportunity to replenish it.
Plant and animal life on this planet that happily evolved with high levels of CO2 for millions of years are now starving from a lack of it. (Interestingly, this is evidenced by the fact that greenhouse plant growers add extra CO2 to their greenhouse air to achieve the proper balance for optimal plant growth. This amount varies but can be easily 3-4x our historic lows)
There was no natural way for it to be replenished. Without human intervention CO2 levels would drop toward zero and the earth eventually will be nearly starved of carbon.
Plants would suffocate. No plants = no oxygen or food for animals or people = bad.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
We are already doing it. We learned in school that fossil fuels come from long-dead plants (fossils). These are not toxic materials. Unwittingly, but fortunately, humans are mining this long lost carbon in the form of fossil fuels and releasing it back into the atmosphere.
We are not home yet. We have only succeeded in increasing the CO2 levels from their lowest ever (around 300 ppm) to roughly 400 ppm. At the current (2011) rate of increase of around 6 to 7 ppm/year, it will take another 60 years before we get CO2 level back to a natural level where plant life will flourish at 800 ppm (or more).
(Before the CO2 kooks get you all jumpy over this seemingly huge increase, keep in mind that this amount would only mean a 0.00002% decrease in the oxygen we breathe. An completely negligable amount of no consequence.)
SPREAD THE WORD
Stop fighting against the CO2 zealots who believe, for various reasons, that we are producing man-made global warming. Their ignorance can't be helped. You know the sun controls the temperature of the planet so just tell them "it's the sun, stupid" and move on.
As for the rest of your friends, start fighting for the continued replenishment of atmospheric carbon to help restore the natural balance.
Educate others in the battle against Global Carbon Starvation which has occurred and which we are just now beginning to understand and help reverse the effects.
MORE INFORMATION - THE PETITION PROJECT
The following is not mine but it is definitive argument against the CO2 kooks. It is supported by tens of thousands of scientists and PhDs. Sadly though it does not go far enough to actually support the need for atmospheric carbon be replenished. But it is a start.
Click here for an HTML version of their document or visit the Petition Project home page.
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