I am a scientist who until now has not been persuaded by the predictions of gloom that have regularly been issued by environmentalists saying that the world is doomed due to man-made pollution. But, as the evidence keeps accumulating, I must say that I am gradually coming around to accept that global warming is a real phenomenon. Here is the evidence that I find compelling:
- Global carbon dioxide levels. CO2 is the main product of burning fossil fuels and its global level has been rising above normal atmospheric background levels for the past 200 years of the industrial revolution. But, in the past 60 years this had become a steep and increasing rise to what is now at least 5 times the level before the industrial revolution.
- Global warming: The over-abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to global warming because the sun’s rays are trapped in the atmosphere by this “greenhouse gas.” This has given rise to the catastrophic melting of glaciers and the concomitant rise of sea levels. This has been amply documented around the northern hemisphere where glaciers from Switzerland to Alaska are retreating and the ice cover around Greenland is rapidly melting.
- Plankton blooms: Much of sea life depends on the presence of plankton, tiny creatures that every year bloom and form the staple food for small fish and whales alike. Scientists have recently shown that the plankton bloom in the Pacific Ocean has been reduced over 20 years by 40%. This is a huge and increasing danger to the health of the oceans and the fish in them, upon which much land-life depends. Part of this decrease can be attributed to the increase in CO2 that dissolves in the ocean and forms acidic carbonic acid. This is also thought to be mainly responsible for the increasing dying of many reefs, including parts of the Australian Barrier Reef.
- Cows and other livestock: Over time the number of cows and sheep being reared in the world for human consumption and production of milk has increased significantly, so that there are now more cows than humans. Each cow produces several liters of methane gas (CH4) per day. This gas is 23 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Many experts now believe that the production of methane from cattle-breeding is a greater source of global warming than CO2 production from industry and cars burning fossil fuels, although the effect of both is additive.
- Animal extinctions: Within human history thousands of animal and plant species have gone extinct, mainly due to the reduction in habitat, environmental conditions, over-hunting and over-fishing . Whales, lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, cod, tuna, turtles, pigeons, dolphins, and many smaller and rarer animals are on the point of extinction or have already disappeared. Bees and amphibians (frogs) are also being wiped out by unknown factors.
There are several lessons to be drawn from these facts:
- We must reduce our dependence on milk and meat. I am a believer in this, since I am both allergic to lactose, being lactase deficient, and also sensitive to fat, of which there is too much in meat. The net conclusion is that we should eat more plant produce, vegetables and fruits. Most adult humans are not adapted to drink large quantities of milk, and it is only the existence of refrigeration in modern times (that also burns much fuel) and the advertizing of the milk industry that causes us to drink too much milk. The same applies to the abundance of meat. We should instead be eating more fish.
- We must reduce the use of fossil fuels: By switching from coal to oil and then natural gas (methane from the degradation of oil) the burning process becomes more efficient. Also, the production of hybrid and electric cars and higher efficiency air flight (including the use of solar power) will greatly contribute to the reduction in CO2 and other air pollution.
- We must develop alternative energy sources: Of course, the development of solar, wind, wave and other forms of energy production can eventually make fossil fuels obsolete. But, the world over-production in oil, and the availability of shale oil and the use of fracking all have caused the current drop in the price of oil. Only when the price of oil rises again will the alternative sources of energy become more economical. Nevertheless, the improvement in solar panels and the use of deep-sea wave energy can eventually replace our dependence on fossil fuels and lead to a healthier climate.