Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Carbon Dioxide levels increasing

One of the major ingredients of the emissions that cause global warming is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing for the past many years (even decades), and except for a few naysayers, it has been accepted that global warming is here to stay. However, efforts to reduce or cap the emissions on a global scale have not been as successful as one would have expected, given the threat to our way of life. There have been many holdouts, in the form of the United States that is the number one producer of such emissions, along with developing nations such as India, China and Brazil who are powering their way to the table of largest emitters. The economic downturn has in fact turned the conversation totally away from this area, but the fact is that even with a recession, emissions will continue to grow, instead of getting capped.
Scientists are now wondering how close we are to a tipping point, when the amount of agents that cause global warming reach such a point that changes start to become more rapid (one example of a tipping point is when the rate of ice melt in the poles and in Greenland becomes so high that less light is reflected because of less ice and more water, thus increasing heat absorption and more ice loss, and so on):

ONDON, England (CNN) -- A team of international scientists led by Dr James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, say that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are already in the danger zone. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere currently stand at 385 parts per million (ppm) and are rising at a rate of two ppm per year. This is enough, say the scientists, to encourage dangerous changes to the Earth's climate. As a result we risk expanding desertification, food shortages, increased storm intensities, loss of coral reefs and the disappearance of mountain glaciers that supply water to hundreds of millions of people.
The report, "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" appears in the latest edition of the Open Atmosphere Science Journal and brings together the expertise of ten scientists from the United States, the UK and France. It is a departure from the previous climate estimates which predict that perilous CO2 levels will be reached later in the century. As far as current global observations are concerned, Hansen cites both the decline of Arctic sea ice and the worldwide retreat of mountain glaciers as causes for major concern. In light of the new data the authors believe that merely stabilizing CO2 emissions might not be enough to avoid catastrophic changes. "Humanity must aim for an even lower level of greenhouse gases", the report concludes.

We are heading down a dangerous path of playing with our environment, and yet don't seem to see this as a problem. There is almost no public involvement in these areas, and leaders of a lot of nations who should be working full steam to avoid such problems are busy either passing the buck or having meetings without reaching the desired goals to avoid future catastrophes.
People in the sub-continent will be heavily affected, and yet, besides asking for the richer nations to do anything, the Indian Government is not really taking any measures to make sure that control of emissions (that hurts the health of people in the country) is happening.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:52 AM