| On global warming
by Lakshmi Sridharan
| In the October 2006 issue of Asian Wisconzine, Mr. John Pinto's article on global warming appears to be mixing facts with inaccurate or incomplete information.
To begin with, there is a natural greenhouse effect and the enhanced greenhouse effect commonly known as global warming. The natural greenhouse effect regulates the temperature of our planet. It is essential for life on earth and is one of earth's natural processes. It is the result of heat absorption by greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide and other trace gases) because they effectively 'trap' heat in the lower atmosphere and re-radiate downward some of that heat. Without a natural greenhouse effect, the temperature of the earth would be about zero degree Fahrenheit (0°F) instead of its present 57°F. So, the concern is not with the fact that we have a greenhouse effect, but with the human activities that lead to an enhancement of the greenhouse effect or global warming.
Scientific research has shown that human activities increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide from combustion of coal, oil, and gas). Pre-industrial carbon dioxide levels were about 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv), and current levels are about 370 ppmv. If no actions are taken, by the end of the 21st century, carbon dioxide concentrations of 75-350% above the pre-industrial concentration could occur.
Global surface temperatures have increased about 0.6°C (plus or minus 0.2°C) since the late-19th century, and about 0.2 to 0.3°C over the past 25 years. Scientists predict the temperature may rise another 1.4 to 5.8*C in the next 100 years. For the Northern Hemisphere summer temperature, recent decades appear to be the warmest since at least about 1000 AD, and the warming since the late 19th century is unprecedented over the 1000 years. So, there is no more scientific debate on the issue of whether there is global warming. Global warming of this magnitude could significantly alter our lives in Wisconsin over the next hundred years. We could potentially face:
* wetter winters and drier summers with longer, hotter, and more frequent heat waves;
* weather and climate changes that could require farmers to raise different crops;
* dairy cattle beleaguered by heat exhaustion and growing pest populations;
* poor air quality and higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, an air pollutant that causes severe health problems;
* warmer and more shallow river waters -- conditions that could hurt populations of cold-water fish like trout
* denser algae blooms and lower oxygen levels in ponds and lakes;
* more frequent floods, droughts, forest fires and damaging storms;
* changes in tree species that could affect the forestry industry and wildlife populations; and
* increases in disease-carrying insect populations.
| In Kyoto, nations widely agreed on the conclusion that most scientists had drawn: that humans are the primary cause of global warming. The result of the convention was, as Mr. Pinto pointed out, a treaty that the emission of carbon dioxide in the year 2012 should be lowered to an amount 5.2% less than emissions in 1990. But, the treaty allowed for emission trading between nations to accommodate the economic needs of individual nations at the same time accomplishing this global wish.
In the United States, approximately 6.6 tons of carbon dioxide is emitted per person every year and emissions per person have increased about 3.4% between 1990 and 1997. About 82% of this emission, as Mr. Pinto identified, is from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and power our cars. The remaining emissions are from methane from wastes in our landfills, raising livestock, natural gas pipelines, and coal, as well as from industrial chemicals and other sources.
The October article suggests that to achieve the carbon dioxide emissions under Kyoto protocol, the U.S. will have to cut its projected 2012 energy use by 25%. The carbon dioxide reduction does not have to come from reduction in energy generation or energy use. A majority of the carbon dioxide reduction can come from replacement of exiting out-dated units at old power plants and adding emission control improvements to the existing units. With the construction and full operation of the OakCeek Power plant (quoted by Mr. Pinto) the company is expected to generate 50% more electricity and reduce its emissions by 61% by the year 2013. Similar results were obtained in a study on Global Warming emission reduction cost analysis by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Thus, I disagree with Mr. Pinto's analysis of global warming as hysteria and his conclusion that reduction in the carbon dioxide emission will need to come at a cost of economic degradation to a nation.
I may also add that as individuals, we can affect the emissions of nearly 32% of the total emissions per person, by the choices we make in three areas of our lives. These areas are the electricity we use in our homes, the waste we produce, and personal transportation.
|Please note the data provided in this article came from reports from (1) Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; (2) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and (3) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.|