Sunday, January 31, 2010

Destructive Greenhouse Gases

By Klaus H Hemsath

The Copenhagen Climate Conference in December of last year emphasized once more that climate changes are occurring because of advancing industrialization and of compounding population growth. Continuing combustion of fossil fuels, grazing cattle, deforestation, thawing permafrost, and beetle infestations are some of the leading causes of new greenhouse gas emissions.

The media report regularly on the effects of accumulating greenhouse gases by referring to only one of its many effects; the effect of global warming. It is not incidental that they report on the most minor manifestation of atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulation. During the last two centuries, average global temperatures have increased by less than one degree Celsius or less than two degrees Fahrenheit. Such a small increase is not perceptible to most humans. In fact, inhabitants of northern latitudes consider moderate warming as a most welcome benefit.

Instead, the destructive effects of greenhouse gas accumulation show themselves in several other, more convincing incarnations. Glaciers on mountains and in the Polar Regions are melting at accelerating rates and lead to worldwide sea level rises. These sea level rises are not negligible and are not trifling. Sea levels are rising much faster than predicted by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of the United Nations. Much of Florida, Manhattan, and many other large coastal areas of the world will be inundated by seawater before the end of the twenty-first century!

Climate changes are another major threat. Climatologists are not quite certain about the extent of changes that very small deviations of historic local and global temperatures will have in the future. Observations over the last several decades have established clearly that the number and the effects of violent weather in the form of heat waves, severe floods, violent windstorms, and long-lasting droughts are on the rise.

Other consequences relate to changes that are still partially hidden. It is becoming increasingly clear that modestly elevated temperatures cause local climate changes and have a pronounced and undeniable effect on the local biosphere. Animal and plant species are driven to extinction by local and regional climate changes. This effect is still moderate but seems to become more widespread.

In view of all these observations many climatologists even are concerned that other, major "tipping points" can be induced potentially by the additive effects of accumulating greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The deflection of the Gulf Stream, originating from the Gulf of Mexico and flowing towards the Arctic Ocean on the northern shores of Russia, is considered a realistic possibility. The climatic repercussions would be devastating for most of Europe.

Despite all these telling observations and despite independent, scientific computations that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will interfere with energy flows from the Sun to our Earth and with energy losses from the Earth to Outer Space, many individuals still deny the interference of greenhouse gases on global and local climates.

What can and must be done to eliminate the growing dangers of irreparable harm to ecosystems and to climate systems of planet Earth?

Unfortunately, there is only one realistic option. The world community must stop all fossil fuel burning in the very near future. Only by such drastic measures can major damages to world economies be prevented.

Early in 2010, there is nobody who knows the level of greenhouse gases that must be maintained for preventing coastal inundation and serious climate deterioration. Most likely, that level will be in the range of 300 ppm to 350 ppm carbon of dioxide in the atmosphere.

On the other hand, a sudden stoppage of fossil fuel burning will have ruinous consequences on world economies if not implemented very carefully and with much preparation and planning. It is mandatory that world economies continue their uninterrupted growth in view of growing populations. This means that plentiful and affordable replacement energies must become available before the use of fossil fuels can be halted.

Conservation measures, carbon taxes, and cap and trade measures cannot stop carbon dioxide emissions. Only the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources can accomplish that non-negotiable result. When committing suicide in a closed garage, it does not matter if one keeps a Rolls Royce or a Beetle running. Cap and trade measures can only delay but not prevent the day of reckoning.

The window of opportunity for preventing the worst consequences of an overheating Earth is closing fast. At best, world economies have fifty years left for stopping all carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Emissions of other greenhouse gases must be halted by stopping them at the source.

There is only one other measure that may relieve greenhouse gas accumulation eventually; we must learn to retrieve carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Inventors need to be challenged and supported to develop a process for cleaning carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without using large amounts of energy.

In his latest book "Clean Energy for Centuries" Dr. Hemsath presents a comprehensive plan for stopping Global Warming and Climate Change. A coming book "Petroleum Substitutes from Biomass" will offer new concepts. For fifty years he has developed, designed, and installed advanced energy technologies as scientist, process engineer, inventor, CTO, CEO, entrepreneur, and author. He holds more than 60 US Patents. Visit

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