baudrunner's space: Let's talk about global warming
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Friday, January 18, 2008

Let's talk about global warming

There was a time back in the sixties when the entire family would take a two weeks in July cottage vacation in Grand Bend. Most days would see us walking single file down a sandy path to the beach about a hundred yards away before nine a.m., especially on the weekends, when even a couple would be hard pressed to claim space, and we were ten. We would swim and sun and toss the frisbee around or play badminton all day. The water was crystal clear - you could see the symmetry of the sand ripples on the lake floor from an air mattress fifteen feet above it. We would usually spend the day there on our spot, eating and drinking out of the cooler. We had the freedom to wander off to play in the arcades on the boardwalk or to just idle about until five p.m. or so when the appetite for supper was sufficiently stoked.

You can't do that anymore. The sun burns uncomfortably hot nowadays. The water has been tainted by effluent from powerboats and other recreational watercraft. Lying around on the beach and playing all day under the sun is a thing of the past. It is harmful to the health.

Someday, probably in my lifetime, it will stop snowing in these parts (Southwestern Ontario). I foresee a time when Denmark becomes the next great world power for owning Greenland! But seriously, what is going on? Is global warming entirely our fault?

The answer to that is actually - yes and no. Yes, because we refuse to stop manufacturing jet aircraft and flying them. American Airlines alone flies over 3,400 domestic flights daily over American airspace. There are thousands more airlines and airliners. Imagine the staggering amount of air that gets sucked into jet engines the world over every second of every day. The oxygen in that air supports the combustion going on in those engines and is converted into CO2, which is spewed out the other end. That's where the CO2 in the upper atmosphere comes from. The CO2 in the lower atmosphere is for the most part consumed by plant life and reconverted into oxygen to be breathed in by animal life and breathed out again as CO2. But that's some kind of symbiosis. What ends up in the upper atmosphere is the result of man's intervention into nature.

We shouldn't blame fossil fuel burning power plants for global warming. As a matter of fact, particulates emitted from them actually block sunlight, in effect cooling the earth. In fact, the last ice age occurred as the result of years of blocked sunlight shielded by vast amounts of particulates spewed out by a super volcano about 25,000 years ago.

Nature is actually the irreversible root cause of global warming. We know, for example, that the north ice shield is receding quickly (25% over the last 40 years) while parts of Antarctica's ice shields are actually growing. The north pole is warming while the south pole is cooling. The reason for that is precession, the wobble of the world around its axis as it spins. We can't correct that.

Furthermore, we are still in the final stages of the last ice age. The rise in average temperatures will increase on a logarithmic scale because as the ice melts it is no longer a contributor to the cooling of the atmosphere. As the temperature rises, the ice melts faster, and so on. In the old days, the refrigerator consisted of nothing more than an insulated box with a door on it and a large ice cube inside. It was relatively efficient in spite of its simplicity. The atmosphere is our insulator. No ice, no cooling.

We have the power to slow down the inevitable, but the question is "do we want to?" Can we stop flying airplanes, legislate against private automobiles with engines larger than four cylinders, stop travelling needlessly, and generally reduce our energy consumption across the board? I don't think so. Nobody is going to come forward and tell Boeing and Airbus to stop manufacturing airplanes, or American Airlines to stop flying them.

In 2002 President Bush stood before the people of America to declare that there was a crisis. By 2012, America would be importing 72% of its fossil fuel. The very next year the hottest items in autmobile showrooms across the land were SUV's and pickup trucks, the bigger the better. And they still are, testament to our arrogance.

We will always just talk about the problem but we can't do anything about it if we don't first look to ourselves, and we don't care enough to do that, that is patently obvious.

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