Why global warming keeps me up at night

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As I’ve confessed here before, I am something of a weather geek. I watch the weather, track the weather, watch weather disaster shows on tv, consult the weather channel frequently, and think about the weather.

I actually studied the weather in college and grad school in the early 1970s, and learned about the greenhouse effect and global warming long before it became a popular media subject.

The amount of carbon dioxide human activity pumps into the atmosphere has only increased dramatically since then, of course. As has general awareness of the issue. And since today is a day when bloggers are invited to blog action day on climate change (see blogactionday.org for more info) participate in a global project to bring more attention to this issue, I am compelled to share what I believe I know for sure. (Sorry Oprah!)

What I believe I know for sure about global warming:

1. There has been a dramatic rise in CO2 in the last three centuries of human history. %co2graphWhile there are short term variations, the graph below shows an unmistakable exponential increase over time since 1700. This is not a scam, it is not a conspiracy, it is simply data. Period. It’s not political, it’s not left or right, it’s just data. Data doesn’t care about our debates and arguments. It just exists. It doesn’t lie, it doesn’t care whether we listen or not. It just is.

2. If you look at the graph, you see that the dramatic rise started around the mid-19th century. What happened at that time? The industrial revolution, of course. Just as it dramatically altered the human experience, it dramatically changed the extent to which human activity produced CO2, and the only place for it to go was the atmosphere.  I think there is a lot of evidence that human activity is contributing significantly to CO2 level increases. It’s not the only cause, of course, but it is a contributing factor.

3. The global warming effect that gets the most airtime is rising sea levels. While that would be catastrophic for much of humanity because they live next to the sea, I think there are worse things to worry about. Like the release of methane, released into the atmosphere from melting permafrost, from the ocean as water temperature rises.  And methane traps heat radiating from the earth (which is where our heat comes from as opposed from direct solar radiation) 20 times more efficiently than CO2. At certain levels, it actually begins to burn. As in massive fire. The atmosphere ablaze? Now that would be bad. Even worse than rising water.

3. Given that data clearly shows that global temperatures (see right hand graph above) are on a rising trend, wouldn’t we humans want to do everything we can to keep our actions in check so we aren’t fouling our own nest? Disrespecting the only home we have? Can’t we live without consuming so much, satisfying our every desire or fancy? Can we bring it down a notch? Might it actually improve our quality of life? Beginning with us. Me. You?

4. And in the end, as this video shows, we may as well do whatever we can to take action to save our planet, because it’s a win-win or lose-lose proposition.  Please take the 10 minutes to watch this video. Do it for me. Do it for you. Do it for the future of humanity.

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