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Reply #49: I hope we don't take smartest options off the table before negotiations start [View All]

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Overseas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-29-09 11:07 AM
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49. I hope we don't take smartest options off the table before negotiations start
I hope our Democratic majority in Congress doesn't handle the debates on atmospheric CO2 reductions by removing the smartest targets before negotiations even begin, as they did with health care reform.

We need a reduction in current levels of CO2, and have the engineering ingenuity and human resources to do that. In fact, a massive Green Jobs program would be a great way to demonstrate the US' commitment to join the community of nations in preserving as many of Earth's beautiful ecosystems for future generations as we can. That would help President Obama's diplomatic efforts to rebuild international respect for the USA. It would also help our economy because the Green workers would spend their wages.

There may be continued corporate resistance to the new technologies because alternative energy technologies can make individuals, states and businesses less dependent on the giant fossil fuel companies. Decentralized power resources can seem threatening to the giant energy companies that have dominated our industrial growth for decades.

There are three numbers you need to really understand global warming, 275, 390, and 350.

For all of human history until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Parts per million is simply a way of measuring the concentration of different gases, and means the ratio of the number of carbon dioxide molecules to all of the molecules in the atmosphere. 275 ppm CO2 is a useful amountwithout some CO2 and other greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere, our planet would be too cold for humans to inhabit.

So we need some carbon in the atmosphere, but the question is how much?

Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal and gas and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating or cooling our homes rely on energy sources like coal and oil that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. We're taking millions of years worth of carbon, stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. By nowand this is the second numberthe planet has 390 parts per million CO2 and this number is rising by about 2 parts per million every year.

Scientists are now saying that's too much that number is higher than any time seen in the recorded history of our planet and we're already beginning to see disastrous impacts on people and places all over the world. Glaciers everywhere are melting and disappearing fastand they are a source of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people. Mosquitoes, who like a warmer world, are spreading into lots of new places, and bringing malaria and dengue fever with them. Drought is becoming much more common, making food harder to grow in many places. Sea levels have begun to rise, and scientists warn that they could go up as much as several meters this century. If that happens, many of the world's cities, island nations, and farmland will be underwater. The oceans are growing more acidic because of the CO2 they are absorbing, which makes it harder for animals like corals and clams to build and maintain their shells and skeletons. Coral reefs could start dissolving at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450-500 ppm. These impacts are combining to exacerbate conflicts and security issues in already resource-strapped regions.

The Arctic is sending us perhaps the clearest message that climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists previously thought. In the summer of 2007, sea ice was roughly 39% below the summer average for 1979-2000, a loss of area equal to nearly five United Kingdoms. Many scientists now believe the Arctic will be completely ice free in the summertime between 2011 and 2015, some 80 years ahead of what scientists had predicted just a few years ago.

<<arctic ice photo>>

Propelled by the news of these accelerating impacts, some of the world's leading climate scientists have now revised the highest safe level of CO2 to 350 parts per million. That's the last number you need to know, and the most important. It's the safety zone for planet earth. As James Hansen of America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the first scientist to warn about global warming more than two decades ago, wrote recently, "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." http://www.350.org/about/science
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