Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's About The Carbon In The Atmosphere! Let's Get Our Priorities Straight!

When we put everything in the balance, the bottom line on climate change, global warming, sea level rise, ice sheet melting, literally everything, is carbon in the atmosphere. There is literally no value to arguing about what caused it, or who. We're still getting our arms around the fine details of that, but the science is in and thousands of scientists around the world agree that there is significant anthropogenic impact in the global warming scenario.

The basic story goes like this: We live in a closed loop environment with the singular exception of energy being injected into our system 24/7 by our Sun. That closed loop has X amount of Carbon in it. For purposes of our discussion, this doesn't change (Conservation of Mass - What does change is where the carbon is at any given time. When it's "out of the way" meaning someplace where it isn't a problem we say it's "sequestered". Sequestration can take the form of plant life, animal life, hydrocarbons (coal, oil, gas), and  non-organic carbon compounds in the earth, carbon dissolved in water, and so on. Usually it refers to anyplace other than in the air. When it is in the air, primarily in the form of gaseous compounds such as carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, propane, or any other gaseous hydrocarbon, it acts to reflect and absorb heat radiated back out toward space by the earth's surface, to varying degrees, depending upon the specific compound (Green House Gas effect). Methane for instance is about 25 times as potent at this function as carbon dioxide. This whole process that defines where the carbon is at any given moment is called the carbon cycle. We have seriously disturbed the "balance" of the carbon cycle, and the carbon cycle is what regulates the "just right" conditions of the Earth's atmosphere, supporting life on Earth.

An excellent illustration of the anthropogenic (human originated) activities that impact the carbon cycle and are at the heart of global warming and climate change is presented in this diagram from the World Resource Institute (

The essence of the situation is that we are approaching a super saturated carbon condition in the atmosphere, with serious environmental tipping points. This will maximize the trapping of converted solar energy, that would otherwise escape into space. Passing the tipping points will mean we have gone so far in a particular direction that we can't go back in a functional time scale (many human life times) - if at all! The science is in, the situation is real. There is no point in arguing it because we have very little time to do something about it, and arguing will just waste more precious time. The question NOW is, what can we do about it?

The linked article gives a very coherent view of the issue with regard to certain aspects and increasing carbon dioxide ( The article, in turn provides a link to Lester Brown's Plan B summary ( with a free downloadable PDF of the summary for you consideration. This is NOT the only thinking going on but if you have not considered a focused plan for attacking this problem comprehensively, this is a good place to start. First and last - it's about the carbon, folks! If you want to know more about potential tipping points and their significance, read

If not us, who? If not now, when? Thanks for being there and being you!

The Smokemaster

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