So, as I investigate ways in which we are controlling nature, I reach the controversial subject of climate change. Is it our fault? Personally, I think so. Yes, the climate will fluctuate over time, and we only came out of the little ice age in the 1800s. But temperatures have never been this high. People dispute the theory with graphs of solar flares and cycles, but scientists have found contrasting relationships between the solar radiation and climate change, and hence there is no distinguished correlation. Plus the current solar cycle has ended, and has the earth cooled? No. The arguments against global warming are not validated by scientists and mostly conceived by bloggers with a hatred for the government.
I happen to have a very fast metabolism (lucky, I know), so you could probably feed me McDonalds every day and I wouldn’t get much fatter, maybe a dress size. The planet also has a fast metabolism, and is extremely resilient. So emit tons and tons of CO2 and greenhouse gases, and the planet will try it’s best to stay cool. Only a 0.5°C increase is not vast, but when you think of the entire surface area of the earth, and the mere decades it took to warm up, it’s rather worrying. My metabolism is bound to slow down, and so is the Earth’s.
Unfortunately Fortunately, mine will slow a lot faster than the planet’s. This buys us some time, but it is time that should be used to correct our errors, not make them worse.
I think it is rather ignorant to suggest that cars and fossil fuels are not affecting the health of the planet. McDonalds might not make me fat, but it certainly doesn’t make me healthy. Cars might not turn the Earth in to a sauna, but they certainly don’t cleanse the air. And even if you don’t believe that the planet is suffering, can’t you see that we are damaging our own lives? Our air quality is quickly deteriorating, and in some cities it can feel like you are eating exhaust for breakfast, while crop yields suffer and are not even close to their full potential. It makes me sad that I can’t even see the stars in Glasgow.
So how can we solve our problems? Change will not be easy, but an article in New Scientist suggests a win-win solution to the problem. We will need to reduce emissions of two types of pollution that scientists know to contribute to global warming and poor air quality; black carbon and ozone. Black carbon is soot, and emitted from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. It works similar to CO2, in that it absorbs heat in the atmosphere, and reduces the Earth’s ability to reflect sunlight; hence warming the air. But it can also cause cancer and cardiovascular disease if inhaled. To reduce it, tighter emission standards on diesel cars and trucks must be implemented, as well as a ban on the burning of agricultural waste. Improved cooking stoves in the developing world would give healthier lives to the people, as well as reducing deforestation, and even allow women and children some time off from collecting wood to gain an education. Perfect!
Carbon monoxide goes hand in hand with black carbon so we’ve taken care of the first ozone precursor. The second is methane. We can reduce gas pipe leaks and capture it from oil, coal and gas extraction. But yes, we need to tackle those bloody cows and their pungent manure too. So what can we do with the methane captured? Sell it! Ignoring the climatic benefits, the collection of methane can pay for itself and even make profit when sold on to make power. The list of benefits goes on, but what it needs to get started in funding, and governments are starting to catch on. The methods could reduce global warming by 0.5°C, which is again a modest amount, so why? Although black carbon and ozone reductions will create rapid benefits, carbon dioxide takes a lot longer to shift (up to 100 years), and there’s a lot more of it. But by reducing emissions soon, we can save the future generations. If we don’t, they will inevitably be left with the impossible task of cleaning air saturated with our mess. Are we really going to be the masters of our own downfall, just because we can’t be bothered to change?