Scientists have long been hip to the fact that carbon dioxide traps heat at the surface of the planet. The unstoppable rise of the gas alters the climate in ways which threaten human welfare. This is called, among other things, the Greenhouse effect.
“Fossil fuel emissions, they say, are like a runaway train, hurtling the world’s citizens toward a stone wall,” writes Justin Gillis of the New York Times, “A carbon dioxide level that, over time, will cause profound changes.”
“The risks include melting ice sheets, rising seas, more droughts and heat waves, more flash floods, worse storms, extinction of many plants and animals, depletion of sea life and — perhaps most important — difficulty in producing an adequate supply of food.”
In 1992, then-President of the United States, George Bush, pledged to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Then, in 1998, when it was time to commit to details in a document called the Kyoto Protocol, Congress recoiled. Last year’s Senate rejection of a Cap and Trade bill was a further disappointment.
However, while the government continues their restless non-action, two silent gray machines atop Mauna Loa, Hawaii, sit inside giant gray boxes and check the carbon dioxide level in the air, every hour. The machines are the brainchild of the late, Dr. Keeling, whose ken confirmed global warming even back in the ’50s. As the decades went on, his precise measurements continued to confirm that indeed the earth was heating up. In a 1998 essay he addressed claims that global warming was a myth, saying the real myth is that “Natural resources and the ability of the earth’s habitable regions to absorb the impacts of human activities are limitless.”
Dr. Keeling’s widow, Louise, honors both him and his scientific discoveries:
“He was a registered Republican,” she said in an interview “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”
In recent years, researchers have put the Keeling measurements into a wider context:
“Bubbles of ancient air trapped by glaciers and ice sheets have been tested, and they show that over the past 800,000 years, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air oscillated between roughly 200 and 300 parts per million. Just before the Industrial Revolution, the level was about 280 parts per million and had been there for several thousand years.”
Reported Justin Gillis, “The gas seemingly played a major role in amplifying the effects of the ice ages, which were caused by wobbles in the earth’s orbit.”
“The geologic record suggests that as the earth began cooling, the amount of carbon dioxide fell, probably because much of it got locked up in the ocean, and that fall amplified the initial cooling. Conversely, when the orbital wobble caused the earth to begin warming, a great deal of carbon dioxide escaped from the ocean, amplifying.”