The basics of climate change

The science of climate change is not complicated. You probably first learned about it in grade school, and the basics haven’t changed. People have collected new data, and learned more about the EFFECTS of climate change, but the fundamental components and mechanism of climate change are, and will remain, the same.

The element we call CARBON is one of the basic building blocks of all life forms, including human beings. The carbon on Earth was in perfect balance until we started burning fossil fuels for energy. When I say “in balance,” that means that the carbon that living things incorporated into their structures, then released when they died, was taken up again by other living beings.

But people produced an excess of carbon when we pumped, fracked, and liquefied the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago. They had decomposed and become buried, and formed concentrated carbon-containing chemicals (coal, oil, and bitumen) that we excavate. Those chemicals are “refined” into gas and other fuels, including the “feedstock” for plastics manufacture.

When we burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced. That CO2 floats up into the atmosphere, and hangs around for centuries. CO2 acts as a blanket surrounding the Earth, trapping heat against its surface. There are other “greenhouse gases” that contribute to that blanket, including methane (CH4), and nitrogen oxide (NO2). But carbon dioxide makes up the bulk of GHG’s at 82% of the total. NO2, released in some industrial processes, makes up 5%, and methane, emitted by fracking, and by cattle, is 10%.

Image courtesy of NASA

So far the Earth has warmed, on average, by 0.82 degrees Celsius. Different regions of the planet are heating up faster than others. The northern hemisphere is warming faster than the southern hemisphere. Canada is warming on average TWICE AS FAST as the rest of the world. And the Arctic has gotten 2.3 degrees C hotter. This huge increase is melting the ice at the North pole, which is in turn causing sea-level rise around the world.

The scientific consensus is that we need to begin working on climate change ASAP, by which I mean immediately. The most critical things to do are (4 pillars of climate change mitigation and adaptation):

1) reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, thereby slowing the release of more GHG’s into our atmosphere- there are literally thousands of ways to do this, so: good news!

2) build as many carbon sinks as we can, so that some of the GHG’s in the air are “sequestered”- contained where they can’t contribute to the warming of Earth anymore. This includes planting millions of trees & other plants, and building healthy soils that contain trillions of living things that together add up to a lot of carbon stored! See my post on regenerating soil near you, right here.

3) transform our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables- solar (introductory post here), wind, hydro, geothermal, biological, nuclear;

4) work towards an economy that is sustainable, fair (just), abundant, & that doesn’t pollute the environment. This kind of economy has widely become known as “the green economy,” and I’ll be posting about it very soon.

The GREAT news is that we KNOW how to do all of these things! We can mitigate and adapt to this climate change problem we’ve created. No one says it’ll be a cake-walk, but we already have the tools, the solutions, & the know-how. We just have to get the experts to plan where & how to implement them, & then get to work doing what people do best: building stuff.

To sum up: climate change is warming the Earth, causing some very dangerous effects: bad. Thousands of species, including human beings, are at risk: bad. But, we can fix the problem, and all of this fear of calamity goes away, if we: gradually decrease and then stop burning fossil fuels, a process that pollutes the planet; adopt clean sources of energy that work well, and that THE AVERAGE PERSON WILL GET FREE after initial investments! We also need to restore, care wisely for, and steward for future generations a planet no one owns, a planet abundant enough for all of us… and this Earth rejuvenation project will create kick-butt jobs for everyone… hmmm. I’m torn. What’s the good news again?!

on the way!

Personally, I can’t wait to start. Bring on the journey to health, animals, birdsong, and flowers!! 🙂

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