Putting things in context
Surprisingly good survey article in the NYT about the oncoming disaster of global warming. Sample extract:
“The heart of the problem is carbon dioxide, the main byproduct from the burning of fossil fuels. When the atmosphere is rich in carbon dioxide, heat is trapped, producing a greenhouse effect. Most scientists believe the billions of tons of carbon dioxide released since the start of the Industrial Revolution are in part to blame for the one-degree rise in global temperatures over the past century. Carbon dioxide concentrations are now 30 percent higher than preindustrial levels.
With rising living standards in developing nations, emissions of carbon dioxide are increasing, and the pace of warming is expected to speed up, too. Unchecked, carbon dioxide would reach twice preindustrial levels by midcentury and perhaps double again by the end of the century. That could force temperatures up by 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to computer models.
Because carbon dioxide is colorless, odorless and disperses immediately into the air, few realize how much spills out of tailpipes and smokestacks. An automobile, for example, generates perhaps 50 to 100 tons of carbon dioxide in its lifetime.
The United States produces more carbon dioxide than any other country by far. Each American, on average, generates about 45,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. That is about twice as much as the average person living in Japan or Europe and many times more than someone living in a developing country like Zimbabwe, China or Panama. (Even if the United States achieves President Bush’s goal of an 18 percent reduction in the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions by 2012, the output of an average American would still far exceed that of almost anyone else in the world.)”
Nothing will happen, of course — at least not with the current Junta in power in the US. But it does rather put other things in perspective..