HOUSTON – Happy Earth Day!
I found this rather dramatic cover shot of Earth on fire and thought that it really brings home the global warming issue we’re facing. The increase in carbon dioxide continues year to year, and you can actually check on it every day. For instance, here’s this week’s count:
Clearly, CO2 levels are hovering around 420ppm right now which is about 100ppm more than when I was born in 1960.
Slow and steady does not win this particular race. CO2 is, in fact, higher than it has been in the past 800,000 years and could well reach 550ppm in the next 60 years. We humans are the ones making this count go up. We use fossil fuels, primarily coal and oil, sending carbon into the air at rates far faster than our Earth can handle, so that extra CO2 goes into the air and the oceans. In the air, this greenhouse gas traps heat and, thus, the warming of the world. You can track the carbon dioxide rate every day right here.
Why does this matter?
First, we want a warm world -- just not too warm and not too cold -- and Earth has been just right for a very long time. Carbon dioxide is the culprit in warming because it’s so abundant and lasts so long. You may have heard of methane and nitrous oxide also being greenhouse gases, yet CO2 is responsible for two-thirds of the energy imbalance we face.
That’s why you always hear talk about lowering your carbon footprint! It’s pretty simple: reducing carbon output reduces global warming. And the problem with global warming is not just the air we breathe becoming more polluted, but the atmospheric changes are creating more deadly heat waves, floods, tropical storms and tornadoes. The warmer world is leading to changes in growing seasons, animal migrations, and water shortages. An excellent explainer on all of this can be found right here.
And then there is the ocean
We are all familiar with melting ice caps, falling glaciers and sea level rises. Most of our heat is stored in the ocean where carbon dioxide is changing the pH balance creating more acidic waters. That is particularly harmful to crustaceans and coral reefs.
Here’s a graph showing how the carbon release in the air in Hawaii is affecting the nearby ocean:
Meteorologist Bernadette Woods Placky of Climate Central explains what carbon in the ocean means in a one minute video that is well worth a quick view.
I realize there is a lot to unpack regarding preserving our Earth (and, thus, ourselves). KPRC 2 has a complete Earth Day page on Click2houston right here where you can learn more about just why this day is important and worth celebrating.
Have a wonderful, if not warm, weekend!