Sunday, 6 October 2019

Climate Change

I’ve paid scant attention to the problems associated with climate change, regarding this as a topic outside our control. That was until I watched the TV program called ‘Decoding the Climate Machine’. It ran over two nights on the PBS channel.
     To say that I am horror-struck would be an understatement. In summary, the finger of blame points at us human beings for our impending, dire fate.
     The program started by asking if the recent spate of mega-storms, raging fires, sustained droughts, and severe earthquakes are flukes or trends? It concluded by affirming that it is a long-term trend, as we face a major impact on the relationships between the air we breathe, the land we live on, the seas we pollute, and the ice caps melting.
     The root cause of all of this lies with the greenhouse gases we generate, primarily carbon dioxide. Think long and hard about the meaning of that innocuous word ‘greenhouse’ and its connotations of heat.
     Did you know that 80% of our energy supplies are sourced from fossil fuels? These generate gases as byproducts that contain carbon dioxide; vast quantities are belched into the atmosphere from industrial chimneys.
     In Antarctica, scientists have drilled through the ice to a depth of 2 miles, to extract samples containing air bubbles trapped for up to 800,000 years. They have measured the carbon dioxide in each period against the current level and found an inexorable upward trend that is peaking. Whatever the causes of the torments that the earth faced previously, we are causing them now.
     Scientists have also dredged seashells from mud deposited on the ocean floors at varying depths. They have established that, whilst the seas absorb 98% of the gases we are responsible for emitting, the remaining 2% is also steadily rising This is sufficient to cause coral reefs that absorb carbon dioxide to die, and ice caps to melt at an ever-increasing rate.
     Another group of scientists, in New Jersey, have created a computer model of our planet, slotting its surface into grid blocks so that the rate of change can be predicted under varying scenarios. One likely outcome is that, by 2100, major changes will occur that render many low-lying cities uninhabitable.
     Optimistically, the PBS program is emphatic that we can use our intelligence to take counter-measures to prevent this scenario happening. Some authorities are already building sea defenses to mitigate potential damage. However, we need to take positive action to reverse the damage we are inflicting on ourselves.
     Fracking? Don’t! It generates the use of fossil fuels at its ultimate destination. As far as I can see, the petroleum industry has outlived its usefulness and must be replaced with modern, more costly alternatives that do not produce harmful side-effects. Plastics? Ban them!
     Ways are already being found to replace silicon-based solar cells with a much cheaper and abundant product called perovskite.
     Battery technology is progressing in leaps and bound, to give us zero-emission vehicles. Wind farms are increasing in number, complemented by new generations of solar panels.
     Without a rapid decline in carbon dioxide, we are doomed. Am I optimistic? I would be if the PSB program had not skirted around two major problems. One is the unsustainable number of people inhabiting this planet with its finite resources. Unless we agree voluntarily to significantly reduce from 7+ billion something will happen that may be accidental or ruthlessly induced.
     The second factor is the increasing level of volcanic activity. Our efforts will be puny compared with the volume of gases these monsters can exude, as all of us should appreciate.

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