December 24, 2004
If you took a basketball and painted it with one coat of varnish, that would represent the atmosphere of earth. That thin coat is essential to human life. The beautiful, life-nurturing “blue ball” that space travelers see is a unique and delicate balancing act. Of the planets in the known universe, only one in a billion may have this perfect balance for life as we know it.
In the last hundred years, man has extracted and burned enormous amounts of hydrocarbons which took millions of years to form. This has resulted in a trillion tons of “abnormal” CO2 introduced into our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels have risen 30 percent during this short time.
However, the process is accelerating and predicted to reach 130 percent in next 90 years. That could raise the earth’s temperature 9 degrees F. with disastrous results. It also stimulates plant growth that can lead to increased amounts of methane. These changes should not be viewed linearly, as a relatively small difference can set off a cascading change of events with exponential effects.
Who to believe about this potential catastrophe? Rush Limbaugh says it’s all nonsense from environmental whackos. Most atmospheric scientists are sounding serious warnings about catastrophic long-term effects from rising CO2 levels.
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