- Politics and Social Issues
Pollution and Global Warming - Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Greenhouse Gas Emissions - The Basic Facts
Someone in response to another hub I produced on a similar subject, said that the Earth was a self-regulating organism. He said that what we were doing to the planet was natural and that the Earth could cope, fixing its own issues.
However, what I feel he and many others neglect to take into account is the fact that whilst I agree, the Earth IS a self-regulating organism, we humans are merrily depleting the very components the Earth needs to perform those regulatory functions. We're tearing down the trees and quarrying the stone, two basic commodities that the Earth needs to purify water and the air. As for the oceans that take care of the majority of the Carbon Dioxide produced, well, we're pumping so much crap into the atmosphere that even the they are having a problem keeping up.
What's worse is that there are still those among us who refuse to believe that there's anything to worry about. They still feel that global warming is something that's not only cyclic, but something that we're not contributing to. Yet before us, there were no cars blowing carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air; there were no aeroplanes belching huge amounts of similar substances into the atmosphere; no tankers sailing across the seas, dumping waste consisting of who knows what, not to mention crude oil spillages and damaging the marine life therein, nor were there vast numbers of factories and other industrial installations belching equally vast amounts of pollutants into the air, into the sea and into the ground.
This is not fiction from some post apocalyptic novel. This is happening right now and we are the ones doing it.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions - methane, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrous Oxide and other toxic gases - have reached a level now that is not far short of the tipping point; the point beyond which, the Earth will no longer be able to support us or the other life on this planet.
These emissions are changing the weather balance around the world, or weather balance is changing in response to what's happening, but I think we're arguing semantics there. The balance is changing whether we like it or not and whether or not this is something cyclic as previously mentioned doesn't matter, are you willing to take that chance?
Greenhouse gas emissions are also changing the amount of the sun's harmful rays that can get through to our planet's surface - just one more thing that puts us and every other living thing on this Earth in danger from cancer at the very least. The pollutants from greenhouse gas emissions in the air are depleting the ozone layer. It's what makes the sky look blue and stops us from frying every time the sun makes an appearance.
It's not just the greenhouse gases that are causing this though. It's the rate at which we are depleting other resources the Earth uses to keep itself regulated: the trees; the oceans and the very rocks and stones upon which our vast civilisations stand.
Cars, lorries, aeroplanes, motorbikes, buses, boats, industry, us; we all produce gases either natural gases from digestion or gases related to the fuels we use in order to live our lives.
Cars typically produce between 150 and 350 grammes of CO2 per kilometre, which for those who want it in English, that's roughly ten ounces to a whopping one pound three ounces of CO2 per mile.
In America alone in 2003, there were approximately 204,000,000 cars trucks or sports utility vehicles. That's about 229,500,000 pounds of CO2 per mile. Assuming we're talking US tons - or 2,000 pounds, that's 114,750 US tons of CO2 produced by those vehicles for every mile they went.
According to Wikipedia, in 2007, there were approximately 600 million passenger cars worldwide (roughly one car per eleven people). Around the world, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road, which burn over 1 billion m³ (260 billion US gallons) of petrol/gasoline and diesel fuel yearly.
These numbers are increasing rapidly.
Companies are trying to move in the right direction by making the cars sold more fuel efficient. This cuts down on the amount of CO (Carbon Monoxide) produced, as that comes from unburnt fuel due to a lack of oxygen - inefficient burn in the cylinder.
However, these steps forward are not the answer as although the emissions are reducing, the number of cars on the road is increasing, so all they are doing is slowing the acceleration rate at which CO2 emissions are entering the atmosphere, not improving things at all.
The government here in the UK, taxes owners of older, less efficient cars in their road fund licence, but that just means that people who can't afford to buy new, have extra to pay. It doesn't prevent the CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, does it?
We mustn't forget that aircraft and boats are also pushing out pollutants, though finding information on what this amounts to hasn't been possible, let's just say that they're contributory factors in this argument.
Industrial and Commercial Emissions
The biggest users of energy are industrial and commercial users.
In the picture above, you can see several giant chimneys belching smoke or vapour of one sort or another into the atmosphere. These chimneys could be exhausting smoke from burning fossil fuels or they could be from incinerators that are burning medical waste and God knows what's in that or what effect it's having. Worse still, some of the chimneys we see on a daily basis, could be from places where plastics are burned, releasing dioxins and other poisons into the air.
Those are the things that got DDT banned, yet here we are burning rubbish and still pumping that same crud into our world that we know only too well is dangerous to the point of being proven unhealthy. I know the atmosphere is big, but that just means it takes a little longer to fill up with impurities. At the rate we're currently going, that term 'a little longer', is probably nearer the truth than most are willing to admit.
So we have to think about what we're producing both as finished products and as a result of trying to dispose of materials industrially to take stock of what's needed and what's not in order to reduce the amount of pollutants we pump into the atmosphere, the sea and the land.
When I complain about the amount that industry is pumping into the atmosphere, I have a very specific bunch of industries in mind.
These are the people who provide our markets with rubbish.
You do the maths. The tools shown on the right have to be forged, plated, packaged and shipped. They have plastics, metals, oil and fuel for the transportation, which means that the carbon footprint of each of these is quite large.
What makes that footprint even bigger, is the fact that often these won't do what they say they're supposed to, which means that they go from the factory, half way round the world, into the shops or other retail outlets and straight into the bin. That is after the application of antiseptic and plasters or bandages for the complete mess they have made of your hands when they break.
These things are a waste of natural resources. They don't work, they don't do what it says they are supposed to and alright, you only get what you pay for, but you don't buy tools to put on display. You buy tools to work with and if they don't do what they're supposed to, not only have you wasted time, but you've also wasted money and the Earth has lost resources, the atmosphere has become just a little bit more polluted because of the numbnuts that think it's okay to waste these things in producing them.
My Own Personal View
In olden times, our forefathers were looked upon with reverence; a level of respect for what they went through and had to do to ensure that we were alright, that we'd survive.
I can't see this happening to us in two or three generations time. These generations are the ones who will inherit this issue and by that time, there may not be any way back from the condition we will have left the Earth.
Arguing that it's not financially viable is not the answer.
This has nothing to do with economics.
This has everything to do with survival - the survival of the human race and the planet upon which it lives.
But it goes further than that.
It also incorporates the survival of just about every living thing on this planet. If we mess it up, they die too and whilst we are all disgusted with those despots throughout history who have committed acts of genocide, isn't that what's on the cards if we carry on in this manner?
But this won't just be a few million people, this will be the vast majority of the human race, most of the species of animals, birds and marine life too. This could total in the tens of billions. At the very worst, it could be the complete annihilation of life on Earth.
That's got your attention hasn't it?
If we continue to either deny there's a problem or make the excuse that yes, there is a problem, but we can't afford to fix it because it would have too big an economic impact, it's estimated that by 2050, the condition of the planet may already be in a condition from which there may be no return.
Okay, so it IS or will be someone else's problem, but should we just sit back and shrug, or should we be pushing those who tell us they have our best interests at heart to actually do something?
I think so, but it wouldn't be easy.
We would have to relinquish some of the creature comforts we have become so used to. We may have to accept that certain things won't be available the way they have been in the past, but wouldn't it be worth it?
At least our children's legacy will not be a poisonous dead husk of a planet.
I was going to leave this hub there, but I have just had someone say that everything has a beginning, a middle and an end and it's only natural for us to use our natural resources to ensure we're here tomorrow. Meanwhile, someone will come along and figure out what to do about pollution.
That's exactly the kind of attitude that's got us here in the first place - a "we'll figure it out when we get to it," attitude that's being fostered by all those selfish people who are only interested in putting themselves first and are not prepared to look at the big picture.
Well here's the latest news:
We've already got to 'it' and no-one has figured out what to do about pollution or the dwindling supplies of natural resources.
It's time to stop deluding ourselves.
It's our responsibility to fix this mess. We can't rely on someone else to come and fix it for us, because surely you've all realised that that 'someone else' isn't coming. After all, there's no Superman who will jump in and save the Earth right at the last minute.
That's fiction, this is reality.
This one's down to us and the sooner we get real with this issue, the better as we really have nowhere else to go.