We've reached the tipping point on Earth's health, should we throw in the towel?
There's a whole lot of doom and gloom going on in the environmental side of things lately. And for good reason as the global levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have risen beyond 400 parts per million (ppm).
What Is CO2?
CO2 is Carbon Dioxide and it's a toxic gas. If the air around you is made up of high concentrations of CO2 it can be deadly. As CO2 concentrations rise that also means there is less oxygen to breathe, which is bad for us all. CO2 can also cause irritations of the eyes, nose, and throat at very high concentrations.
In Plain English Please!
So, CO2 is often called a "greenhouse gas" and is fairly bad stuff in large doses. It's one of the bigger side effects that mankind has had on planet Earth over the years. It's primarily known for being a direct result of burning fossil fuels in cars, power plants, etc.
CO2 levels are an overall measure of the environment's health. As CO2 levels rise, it's generally assumed that Earth's environmental quality will decrease while temperatures rise (aka, the greenhouse effect).
Why Is 400ppm Important?
First, let's cover what a ppm actually is. In the world of beakers and pocket protectors, gasses are measured in parts per million. To make this easy to understand, think of the gas as a drop of liquid. If you have a large bowl that can hold 1 million drops of liquid and a single one of those drops is CO2 then your bowl contains 1ppm of CO2.
Scale that up to our entire atmosphere and for every 1 million "drops" of atmosphere, 400 of those are CO2. It's said that 400ppm is the so-called "tipping point" in terms of Earth's health. Scientists have long believed that once we reach 400ppm it will be very difficult, likely impossible even, to fix our atmosphere and drop back below that threshold.
But We're Smart, We Can Fix This...Right?
First off, we're not really that smart or we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. We can't all get along very well, never have really, nor can we plan for our future at all. Let's face it, most can't plan for their own future health and financial needs, much less planning for generations into the future.
There are many examples of this, but take something like smoking cigarettes or even vaping. We know this stuff causes cancer and is generally bad for us, but look how many people worldwide smoke. Don't get all high and mighty if you don't smoke, you're probably guilty in plenty of other ways, as am I.
Second, it's thought that even if we stopped all greenhouses gasses right now that it would take at least 10 years before levels dropped back below 400ppm. That's pretty insane when you think about. What's worse is that there is no way we could stop all fossil fuel usage right now.
Are We Doomed Then?
We probably are doomed, but it's hard to say if CO2 is our real killer. If a giant dinosaur-killing asteroid doesn't find us first, chances are good that we'll find a way to kill ourselves through some form of war. North Korea is just itching to push a button and start World War III. What happens when China comes to collect the debt that countries like the USA owe it but we don't have the cash right now?
If we do survive, chances are good that we will find a way to reduce CO2 levels, eventually. Projects that actually "scrub" the air of CO2 have been in the works for a while now and if these projects scale up they may help our issues. Of course, getting off of all fossil fuels is still the thing we have to figure out. As usual, we wait until the problem is too big to ignore before anything is done.
What Can I Do To Help?
Go green! Small changes from a large population can have big impacts. Even if we can't drop below 400ppm, we might be able to slow down the inevitable reaching of 450 or 500ppm.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Turn off lights when you're not using them. Raise your AC temperature a couple of degrees (and then see Best Ways To Stay Cool While Sleeping) and lower your heating temperature. Insulate your home. Stop filling up landfills with useless junk you didn't need in the first place. Drive an efficient car and carpool while avoiding unnecessary trips. Oh, and lawn equipment powered by dirty gas engines have to go. Stop eating so much meat, cows are an enormous producer of greenhouse gasses. In fact, stop eating so much altogether (see Eat Until 80% Full, Live Longer). The list goes on and on.
The question isn't "what can you do" to help, it's "will you actually make a change to help?" And the answer to that question is probably "no". Unless there is some sort of financial gain, then maybe the answer is a "yes". In that case, read Top 10 Ways To Save Water & Money, Seven Energy Efficiency Tips for Your Business, Air Conditioning Tips For A Cooler Summer, and Using Fans To Stay Cool.