If Earth were an apple, the skin of the apple would be the thickness of our world’s atmosphere. Indeed, we are most fortunate in our distance from the sun: On one side of us, we have the planet Venus which has extremely violent weather patterns with temperatures of 9000 F and 99 percent carbon dioxide; on the other side, we have Mars, a dry planet where temperatures of -800 F are common. Indeed, our planet’s placement is most critical and fortunate.
Should We Be Worried?
Should we be worried about our world warming up? My answer is yes! Most of the north polar ice has melted leaving some 90 percent of the ice in the southern glacial Antarctic region. This is resulting in an increased heat and pressure/wind gradient causing unprecedented weather violence. Glacial melting with its added moisture could theoretically raise the water levels to disastrous levels flooding the coastal cities. This would occur especially if Antarctic’s west glacial mass were to break off and melt; and, because of all this, it would seem inevitable that the El Nino would also change — a system in itself little understood. And, this has all happened much faster than history would predict. For example, Ice Ages are roughly correlated to our planet’s changing orbit, tilt, and gyration; global change in temperatures of 2 or 30 F can transform the landscape with a noticeable effect, as suggested above. These changing patterns occur over thousands of years.
The primary cause for this global warming and changing weather is the excess buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere due to emissions from factories, houses, cities, automobiles, ships, planes, etc. Let’s first take a look at some of the “solutions” already in place and the arguments for and against. Solar Power, making use of the heat of the sun, and Wind Power are used to generate heat in the winter and running fans and cooling units in the summer. Solar and wind are fine on an individual level; but, on an industrial level we can’t get enough consistent energy to be cost effective.
Because coal and other carbon dioxide producing fuels are used to produce electricity we need to consider non-gaseous solutions, such as nuclear power. However, developing nuclear fission reactors and fusion reactors (still theoretical) is still in its infancy. Nuclear fusion (the power of the sun and stars) would be the better of the two but still has many problems. The major argument against nuclear power is what we do with the radioactive waste until it deteriorates enough to be safe. There are plenty of underground storage possibilities, though quite expensive. Another interesting observation is the danger in the Northern Rim, which is the total land mass north of the equator with considerably more than in the southern hemisphere. In The North, methane in the form of methane clathrates is locked up in the permafrost; if the permafrost keeps melting, it will release a gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide. Another observation is that, amazing as it seems, cities are considered green because they are relatively efficient. Here we have the convenience of shopping, community contact, cultural events, cost effective transportation such as buses, subways, etcetera, and where we can walk, run, bike, skate, doing our chores — good health benefits here. Indeed, if we had 70 to 80 percent of the world living in cities, we would free some three percent of land, which is about 1,800,000 square miles that could be used to grow crops, breed and graze cattle, develop fish hatcheries, and for forestation and recreation to keep species of wild life from extinction and for the production oxygen essential for life in general. We need sources that are not combustible and not land intensive as solar and wind power. We also need a universal, free thinking, uninhibited public and system of education without mass denial and unjustified prejudices. I cannot overstress education; indeed, the more the better! We must emphasize research in fission and fusion nuclear energy, and look for other possibilities. We must do the same with genetic engineering, which is what nature has been doing with all life forms for some 13.7 billion years, to improve our food and medical crops, develop better strains of food, fertilizers, and pesticides, herbicides, — all things green. It is up to us as individuals and the world governments — “to do or die.”
Douglas (Doug) Peden: Mathematician, theorist, and former Rocket and Nuclear Reactor Design Engineer.