Friday, February 20, 2015

Global Climate Change 101

By Eric Christiansen

Reading the chapter on global climate change in The Reporter's Environmental Handbook, I was struck by the sensitivity and fragility of the balance that exists in our atmosphere.The reading outlines the structure of our atmosphere from the high altitude stratosphere to the low altitude troposphere.  As I learned about the differences in the gases that exist at these varying altitudes, I was surprised to find out the degree to which ozone can negatively affect our atmosphere and planet. 

Simply a change in the altitude at which ozone exists can drastically impact the way it interacts with other gases and the temperature of the planet.  I understood that global temperature change is sensitive and is measured at a minute level, but I didn’t realize that 1 degree Celsius over the course of 10,000 years was as significant as it is.

I found some of the commentary regarding human interaction with the environment especially interesting.  Some people, the authors remarked, believe that given the rate at which humans are advancing technologically, we will be able to solve problems as they arise.  I find that this topic is especially relevant as people start to consider the problems that will confront the human race in the near and distant future.

Our dependence on fossil fuels comes to mind.  Will we be able to full convert to alternative fuel sources before the fuel runs out, or will we continue to rely on these dated fuels until the last minute?  Given the progression of research into electric cars, solar power, and other power sources like wind and hydro power, the possibilities of future innovations are exciting.  While it wasn’t discussed directly in the reading, the subject of clean, accessible water came to mind as I read this section of the chapter.  Many people take it for granted, but water is a limited resource, so innovation in the field of water sanitation is vital to the survival of our species.

Bill Gates has recently been at the forefront of some interesting developments in sewage treatment.  While I don’t understand the process completely, he has been involved in the development of plants that are able to convert raw sewage into potable water. 

Overall, I found this reading extremely informative.  I think that it helped me develop a far greater understanding of the processes at work in our atmosphere.  I am certainly more informed now about the sensitivity of global temperature and how those temperatures are affected.  The potential impact to our planet and quality of life also struck me as it is really applicable to everyone.  I really can’t understand how this subject pulls as little attention as it does, given its significance and severity. 

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