I love people who say they don’t believe in global warming, or climate change, or whatever the current jargon is for the catastrophic disaster looming in our future. It doesn’t matter what we call it, the fact remains the same: we are polluting ourselves out of a planet.
I sound pretty certain about that don’t I? Well, I am. I suppose that if I were to take the “climate change is a giant hoax” media machine at face value I’d be more doubtful, but it really only takes a few minutes of thought on this subject to start getting to a point where you are either seriously devoted to sticking your head in the sand like a good little GOP ostrich, OR you’re scared out of your pants for your kids and grand-kids. Heck, if you’re young enough, it’s your own hide you ought to worry about.
So why am I so sure? Let’s start with something we’ve all experienced, you go to the store to shop on a sunny day, leaving your car parked in the shade. When you come outside and see it sitting in the sun, you know your first thought is of the hot seats, steaming steering wheel and choking air that are waiting to greet you. You know that the sun will warm the inside of your car, but do you know why?
It’s because glass acts like carbon dioxide. The glass in your windows allows the full spectrum of the sun’s energy into your car and that energy is absorbed by your seats, steering wheel, and dashboard. The reason that it’s hot in your car is that this energy then radiates back out in the form of a single kind of radiation, infrared radiation. When infrared radiation reacts with the glass in your car it can’t get out of your car. With the heat of the sun shining on your car bouncing around in there, it gets pretty hot doesn’t it?
When I explain this concept, there are always those who say, “But we don’t know that carbon dioxide behaves the same way that glass does.” This is nothing but pure ignorance. We do know it. We have a machine, called an infrared spectrometer that can shine an infrared light through samples of gasses and identify the gas based on how much and what kind of radiation is reflected back. I know this, not because I have to rely on some foreign scientist with questionable motives, but because I’ve done it myself. I’ve used an infrared spectrometer on carbon dioxide and I can swear on the lives of my children that it did in fact reflect infrared radiation. This is why they are called greenhouse gasses people, think about it… your car could grow tomatoes if you’d plant them in that hothouse on wheels!
Another claim I have heard from skeptics is “We don’t know how much carbon is in the atmosphere.” This I take serious issue with. The sarcastic part of me wishes to ask if perhaps the same officials who forged a birth announcement for an infant Barrack Obama in 1961 were also those who were hard at work creating fake carbon dioxide data that Barrack Obama could later use to beat a 2012 oil industry into needless submission? If this is the case, I tip my hat to the greatest Jedi mind trick ever pulled on humanity.
In preference of reality, I choose to believe in the Mauna Loa data is a collection of qualified measurements which shows a growing concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere. For those who can’t take that data at face value, I would ask how much carbon dioxide they think should be in the atmosphere considering that we’ve got a reported 1 billion cars got running on fossil fuels jetting around this planet. I would then suggest that it doesn’t matter if Mauna Loa is right or if they are right… it’s too much C02.
I am comfortable saying this because when I look back at the history of how fossil fuels were created, as reported by the oil industry itself, I find that the diatoms and other organisms whose bodies make up the oil, natural gas and coal that we’ve burned over the last 200 years were buried beneath the earth’s crust around 300 million years ago during a period known as the Carboniferous Period. The Carboniferous Period lasted for about 110 million years, during which time almost all the earth’s fossil fuels were created. At the beginning of that period the planet was about three degrees warmer than it is now, by the end of that period it had dropped nearly two degrees.
Think about that, when all that carbon was buried over the course of 110 million years, it cooled our planet by two degrees. What do we think will happen when we burn that carbon and release it all into the atmosphere over the course of a couple of centuries? I have to force down fear for my son’s children just thinking about all the ways that we cannot know the answer to that question, except to say that it won’t be good. It won’t be good at all.
Once we get down to the facts, they are pretty simple:
1) Carbon dioxide will heat this planet up like your car with the windows up on a sunny day.
2) We are dumping unimaginable amounts of carbon into our atmosphere.
3) We should immediately stop doing this to ourselves.
Arguing with someone who’d dispute these facts is arguing with someone who wants to talk about politics or economics instead of science. There isn’t any science left to dispute global warming with. Yes, there are models that suggest it won’t be as bad as we thought, but there are also models that suggest it could be worse. Yes, there are those who have economic and political motivation to deceive us into ignoring this, and they seem believable sometimes, but what would you do if those same interests tried to tell you that your car won’t get hot if you park it in the sun? You’d laugh. You’d know they were wrong.
Don’t let them fool you on this now. The consequences of a hot planet are by definition much bigger than those of a hot steering wheel. We all triple check those car seats and the precious cargo we put in them, we worry about the formula or breast milk we offer them, and the national debt we’ll leave them, but none of that matters if the planet that they inherit is uninhabitable. Whether you like it or not, you believe in the science of global warming. Whether you think you believe in the science or not, it’s happening now. Let’s start thinking, and stop playing ostrich, giving up $2.00/gal gasoline is a small sacrifice in trade for an entire planet.
The cry for cheep gasoline, ought to be silenced as immoral. The stupidity of the 2008 McCain/Palin chant, “Drill Baby, Drill!” ought to be apparent to us all since the Gulf Oil spill of 2010. The inconvenience of this truth is far greater than the message of a former vice presidential candidate, and I am concerned at the willingness of so many to shut their ears to the dire straights of this very moment, while pointing out the politics of Al Gore or anyone else. I don’t care if he flies in the world’s only hybrid plane/SUV.
I do care that the Keystone Pipeline issue is being tucked away in a transportation bill that will be difficult to defeat. The tar sands in Alberta, Canada have an estimated 176 billion barrels of oil in them. Considering that we have only burned an estimated 100 billion barrels of oil since the 1890′s and that the Keystone Pipeline would open up nearly twice as much oil as we’ve already burned, it seems to me that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. According to the EPA, the global temperature has risen nearly a full degree since the industrial revolution began. If we open up twice as much oil as has ever been burned when we know that the first dose rose our temp by a degree, we are worse than foolish, we are suicidal.
This issue isn’t one that you’ll be proud to tell your children that you ignored. Don’t forget that car on a hot day, Go to 350.org and start learning about what you can do to help solve the climate crisis, write your legislators, call them, Tweet them, Facebook them, hound them till they have no choice to but to stand up for our future.
This planet isn’t a car. We can’t roll down the atmosphere and let the heat out, we have no tinfoil reflector to set up in the clouds to bounce the rays out before they get in. The only choice we have is to not put the gas up there in the first place. I can think of no better place to leave it, than right where God intended it, in the tar sands of Alberta.