I believe that the greatest mistake we as a people ever made, was to allow climate change to
be politicized. This is not a political problem, it is a human problem in that it effects us all. Once the political machine got ahold of this issue, facts became skewed by both sides in order to further their own agenda. I would say try it yourself but it is becoming ever more difficult to find any information on the web that is not shoved over to the left. In my research of actual books, and research project reports though, I can tell you that for every ten documents I find to support or deny the human impact on the environment, I can find just as many that refute the findings. It is virtually impossible to wade through all of the politicized data and actually quantify the true results of the studies being conducted. Unless you are able to get your hands on the original raw data, ( good luck with that ) you can not know what the true numbers are. Your just taking someone's word for it no matter what side you may stand on.
The other problem with politicizing climate change is of course the industry behind it, in other words, money. This is BIG business man. The most recent documentation I could find is from 2015 by http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/ where they estimate the green energy industry to be at $614.92 Billion. Granted, the fossil fuel industry dwarfs that, considering it is the most profitable industry in human history, but green energy is still a fledgling industry with a massive amount of room to grow. I myself am a capitalist, so I have no problem with people finding a new industry and exploiting it for profit. That is kind of what we humans do after all. The problem arises when the industry becomes more about money, and political ideology than the actual science.
Now I want to make my personal position on this issue clear before I continue. Climate change is happening. The Earths temperatures are rising, and we as a species are heading towards what could be another population bottle neck like what happened around 70,000 years ago. In what is modern day Sumatra a massive volcanic eruption that left behind the crater lake Toba, decimated the Homo Sapiens population. Research suggests that there may have been less than 2,000 individuals left on the Earth after that eruption. Look, the Earth goes through cycles, it is written all over our geologic record and is undeniable, it is fact. There have been 5 extinction level events estimated to have hit our Earth in the last 440 million years ( or so ). When you are on this kind of time scale you are plus or minus a few million years. All of these events have been tied to natural events, super volcano eruptions, and asteroid impacts as the two main causes. It is all quite fascinating really, 364 million years ago 75% of species on Earth were wiped out by plants. The theory is, the plants roots went so deep, and turned up so much soil, they pumped massive amounts of nutrients into the oceans causing an explosion in algae growth. This in turn stripped the oxygen from the water, and therefore, most of the life it held. There were other factors involved but if I keep letting myself talk about this I will go on forever. If you want to read more about this, here are a couple of websites. (1) (2)
Ok, I let myself get distracted, back to my point. I have no doubt that climate change is real, I also know for a fact that human beings did not CAUSE it. It is part of a natural cycle that shows up over and over again in our fossil and Ice core records. I do however believe that human beings are accelerating the process, or exacerbating it if you will. Now, here is where I have issues with the common belief that if we cut our CO2 ( carbon dioxide ) emissions, we are going to make everything ok again. MMMMMM, not going to happen my friend. Why? Because our CO2 emissions are only one small part of our impact on the environment. There is also another green house gas that is considered less damaging than CO2, but its impact can be much more significant. Methane. For the most part reports ignore this GHG ( as well as the other 13 GHG ) and focus on CO2. Why? Politics. CO2 is the big bad bogey man that politicians use to scare the hell out of everyone.
I should make a note here since we are moving into the realm of my nemesis, statistics. People love to quote statistics, but here is a fact about them people overlook. You give me any issue, I can create a list of statistics to support any version of that issue that I want, or both just to be contrary with myself. My point is, you have to be very careful putting too much trust in these numbers. The people who create them are doing so to support a certain position. Including me right now. The difference for me, is I am trying to use the statistics to make people aware of things other statistics do not take into account, or flat out ignore.
According to the EPA these are the primary GHG'S that are effecting climate change. However, their little pie chart does not even mention the most heat reflecting green house gas of all, water vapor. Since water vapor is determined by temperature, it is widely considered a non-entity as far as its effects on global warming. So in a nut shell, the release of the other GHG's are determinate in the amount of water vapor in our atmosphere. ( we will look closer at this later on ). In my opinion though there is another reason they do not include water vapor. The whole purpose of the EPA studies is to prove CO2 through our fossil fuel use is the worst offender. After all, the EPA despises fossil fuel use, and is politically motivated to prove their point.
If we were to add water vapor to this chart it would look more like this.
Obviously, this pie chart would make it much more difficult to convince people that CO2 is the big bad bogey man. This is what I was saying about statistics, emit one little thing, and you can make them say whatever you want them to. Now I must reiterate that the amount of water vapor in our atmosphere is determined by temperature, so the release of the other GHG's is a determining factor. I am trying hard not to turn this into a climatology lecture, so I am going to link to a lot of information or this article would never end. For more on water cycles and the atmosphere, you can visit these websites. (1) (2)
So lets take a look at CO2. This is by far the most common GHG other than water vapor lurking in our atmosphere. So, where does it come from? The shorter list would be where it does not come from. Every biological on this planet releases CO2. Humans and animals exhale it, it rises from the oceans, it rises from every inch of soil on the planet, volcanoes create the greatest release of CO2 other than the non-natural release by human activity. Even plants that primarily pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, release small amounts back into the atmosphere. I know, your saying: "that's not right, plants take in CO2 and release Oxygen, not the other way around." That is very true... during the daytime, when they have sunlight which is necessary for photosynthesis. Plants still need to maintain their metabolism and respiration at night when they
do not have sunlight, they do this by taking in Oxygen, and sugars, and releasing CO2 and water vapor. The good news is they release many, many times the amount of Oxygen during the day than CO2 at night, so it is negligible, and all but harmless, so don't go throwing out all of your house plants just yet.
In scientific circles the estimate of human causation to global warming ranges from around 41%- 100% responsibility. 100%, Ummmm, did we somehow lose ALL of the natural sources for global warming effects? Any how, according to most information I have found, somewhere in the area of 97% of scientists state that global warming is real, and CAUSED by human activity. I do not believe this because I have a very useful tool in my box called common sense. If you just put your faith in the most prevalent studies, statistics, and percentages handed out through the media, you are not getting enough information to see the whole picture. Therefore, you are unable to apply common sense to your thought process. I like to call this "intentional ignorance". Simply put, you cannot process and use information you do not have, and when the information you do have is incomplete, ( quite often intentionally ) it is impossible to make a well informed decision.
Co2 is the most essential green house gas there is for life. Nothing on this Earth would be alive without it. Why? Because there would be no plants to produce the Oxygen everything needs to live. No CO2, no photosynthesis, no plants, no life. My thinking on this led me down a path I had really not thought much about before then, but once I dug into it I gained a whole new perspective on this issue. Since the industrial revolution beginning in the 18th century, humans have indeed created many industries that pump CO2 and other GHG's into the atmosphere at alarming rates. The negative impact of this is quantifiable, so I do not dispute this. However, there are many other human activity's that contribute to global warming. One of these, that no one really talks about accounts for 25-30 percent of GHG's released into the atmosphere annually, compared to around 14% ( this number is including natural CO2 contributions) by human transportation and industry. This activity also makes it harder to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Deforestation of tropical rainforests.
"Clear cutting" or "clear felling" is the most inexpensive and efficient way to harvest timber, so by default, it is the most common process used. As you can see in the image to the right, it is quite devastating to these ecosystems. Here is a way to kind of put this in perspective. In one decade alone, 1990-2000 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported 8.9 million hectares of forest was mowed down (per year). 2000-2005 another 7.3 million hectares per year disappeared by human hands. So, 8.9 million times ten= 89 million hectares, plus 37 million hectares is a whopping 126 million hectares of deforestation in only 15 years. That converts over to about 600,000 sq. miles of forest land. For perspective, the state of Alaska, our largest state, is 663,268 sq. miles. Really think about that for a minute and let it sink in. That was only in a fifteen year time period. Here again in order to make it to where this article actually ends at some point, I am going to link to some reference material that I also used for sources above. (1) (2) The second website linked here gives a running total on this issue, pretty alarming.
Aside from the millions of tons of CO2 released by cutting these trees down in the first place, what is left is an ugly raw scar of soil that no longer has the shade protection of the trees branches. The sun will beat down on this open soil relentlessly causing decomposers in the soil to kick into high gear releasing even more CO2 into the air over a longer period of time. Then of course we have the fact that there are now billions of trees that will no longer pull CO2 back out of the atmosphere. I will give you one more thing to put some perspective on this issue. It takes a tremendous amount of heavy equipment to remove these trees by clear cutting, and they are all pumping burnt diesel and gasoline into the air, CO2. The amount of CO2 all of these machines expel is almost non-existent compared to the CO2 released by the trees themselves being cut down. The more you know!
So, we have established that deforestation is a greater contributor to CO2 release than burning fossil fuels. It is still human caused, but getting control of this would be a far less expensive method of controlling CO2 emissions, and would have a far more positive effect on the environment. We have to look at the whole picture. Sure, we lose the trees, which is bad, but we are also devastating the local wildlife. According to a report by Dr. Robert Ewers, Imperial College of London, Dept. of Life Sciences, deforestation in Brazils amazon will most likely cause the extinction of 15 mammal, 30 bird, and 10 amphibian species by the year 2050. Those numbers are only in Brazil, almost every country in the world practices clear cutting. (1) (2)
Another major contributor to global warming is overfishing, This does not add CO2 to the air, but complicates the oceans ability to remove it. Our oceans annual uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere is somewhere around 2.5 billion tons per year, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography report for the decade 2002-2011, or 26% of the estimated 9.2 billion tons released during that time period. Keep in mind that this report only considers human activity in it's numbers, they do not include sources of natural CO2 release.
In order to better understand this we have to look at the process itself. In the simplest terms CO2 enters through the oceans surface where a type of algae called phytoplankton eat it during photosynthesis. The phytoplankton eventually die and sink to the bottom of the ocean where they decompose, storing CO2 for future exchanges with the atmosphere. The amount of C02 consumed by these tiny organisms that make up 95% of the ocean biomass, is comparable to the amount taken in each year by our forests and other plants through their photosynthesis. They are also the backbone of our entire food chain, they feed everything from microscopic organisms to the largest species of whale, all the way up to humans. Phytoplankton are also directly and indirectly responsible for around half of the oxygen we breath. Are you getting the picture? If these marine algae did not exist, neither would anything else that needs oxygen to stay alive. I would say they are pretty damn important.
Keep in mind that our oceans are nearly closed ecosystems, every living thing they hold lives, dies, and is recycled through decomposition. The only thing that can interrupt this cycle, is human intervention, which brings us to overfishing. Pollution is another very bad thing that can affect ocean PH levels causing acidification of the water, which in turn affects everything that lives in them. This however is already included with the human impact numbers of burning fossil fuels, just wanted you to know I had not forgot about it. Besides, remember what I keep saying about an eventual end to this article? It would never happen if I go through every little factor. Here is some reference material though. (1)