So it’s Earth Day. I remember Earth Day coming around years ago and nobody really made a big deal about it. Well, I’m happy to say that’s really changed. 2008 is looking like it will go down in the books as “The Year Of Green” or something to that effect when we look back on it in the next decade or so. The whole eco-friendly thing is finally starting to catch on.
Everywhere you look, there are environmental themes. NBC has done a ton of things to get the public on board with their “Green Is Universal” campaign. This week, in fact, is “Green Week.” All of their shows have environmental themes, including sitcoms. I applaud them for all of their work. I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it again because it’s so true. Corporate America has a tremendous amount of influence on our lives. They’re extremely powerful, and they can use that power either positively or negatively. The kind of positive energy NBC is exuding is what we need across the board.
Tomorrow, in one of my Green Wednesday weekly posts, I’ll the corporate heavyweights and their efforts more in depth. We’re making big steps in the right direction, but there’s so much more we need to do on both individual and international levels if we want to stop global warming before we’re at the point of no return, which experts on the subject claim is only about a decade away.
It’s absolutely critical that we do something right now to save our planet from certain peril. An eye-opening new special on global warming will air tomorrow night on the National Geographic Channel. It’s called “Six Degrees Could Change The World.”
In it, some of the world’s top experts on global warming lay out what to expect as the earth warms over the next century:
At 1 degree Celsius, most coral reefs and many mountain glaciers will be lost. A 3-degree rise would spell the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, disappearance of Greenland’s ice sheet, and the creation of deserts across the Midwestern United States and southern Africa. A 6-degree increase would eliminate most life on Earth, including much of humanity.
How do we fight this impending doom? Several people have some very creative, yet expensive ideas. There is hope yet. Check out the following ideas:
Simulating Volcanic Eruptions The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines sent an estimated 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide high into the stratosphere. Winds proceeded to spread it all over the planet, forming a high-level haze that reflected back light from the sun and reduced global temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius. Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen has proposed simulating the Pinatubo effect by using artillery guns or balloons to inject sulfur into the atmosphere. (Rockets filled with sulfur could also do the trick). Crutzen calculates that the cooling effect would begin within six months and last for up to two years. Artificially duplicating Mount Pinatubo’s effects each year might cost $250 billion, though Crutzen says a relatively affordable $25-$50 billion worth would be enough to make a difference. A major downside is the possibility of creating acid rain or wreaking havoc with global weather patterns, as the eruption of the Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatoa did in the 1880s.
Lenses In Space University of Arizona astronomer Roger Angel has suggested using non-polluting, magnetically-powered vehicles—a concept that NASA is already exploring—to transport trillions of lenses made of silicon nitride film into space and deposit them near inner Lagrange point 1, an area where the combined effect of gravity of the Earth and the Sun would keep them in the same place relative to Earth’s rotation. The lenses would be about three feet across but incredibly thin, weighing about a gram. Rather than blocking sunlight, they would bend some of it slightly away from Earth, reducing the amount of energy transmitted by about 2 percent. Manufacturing the immense quantity of lenses and putting them into space—some 20 million launches would be required—make Angel’s idea a lengthy and pricey one, but he has estimated that the cost would average out to $100 billion annually over the lenses’ 50 year lifetime. The lenses would also be difficult to turn “off” if necessary, and could lead to uneven cooling effects.
Turning Pollution Into Baking Soda Burning coal to generate electricity is one of the planet’s major sources of carbon emissions. To cope with their seemingly insatiable demand for electric power, the U.S., China, and India plan to build 850 new coal-fired plants by 2012, which will spew five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol nations aim to eliminate. Many believe that carbon sequestration, in which carbon dioxide emissions from smokestacks are trapped and stored, is the best answer. But most ideas for what to do with the carbon dioxide—such as pumping it into manmade caverns—would be costly, and there’s always the risk that the gases will escape. That’s where a Texas-based startup company, Skyonic, and its innovative new carbon sequestration technology, gets involved. Plastic mesh sheets capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant, which is then mixed with sodium hydroxide to produce harmless baking soda. Solids are easier to store, and since the baking soda produced is high-grade, it can be recycled for industrial applications or even used for baking. Texas utility Luminant installed a pilot version of the technology at its Brown Steam Electric Station in 2006, and Skyonics is now designing a system that it hopes to install on a large 500-megawatt power plant in 2009.
Introductory note: Our environment is at a tipping point. In the next couple years, we have the opportunity to change the way we live our lives and stop global warming, and if not, face the irreversible consequences. Every week, I’ll have a new post on what you can do to help save our planet.
Bottled water. We’ve all drank it before. It’s convenient and refreshing, but the environmental effects are tremendous. Each day, 40 million plastic water bottles are dumped into America’s landfills, as they have a low recycling rate. They also take more energy to recycle than would be saved by recycling them in the first place. Furthermore, there’s controversy in many developing nations with major bottling companies taking the precious, small water supplies from those who need it and selling it for profit. Bottled water also costs, on average, 1,000 times more than tap water, and usually is no more beneficial or better tasting. It also has the risk of contamination.
New York City recently started a campaign promoting the city’s tap water and as of a few weeks ago had plans to open up tap water stations where citizens could fill up their own reusable bottles. There has also been talk of a total ban on the sale of bottled water. Any way you look at it, there’s just no benefit to bottled water. And if all these reasons weren’t enough, look at this one last humorous reason: I don’t know if it’s just me (I would notice things like this), but have you ever noticed that one of the major brands, Evian, spells naive backwards? Interesting, huh? Could be a message to all you bottled water consumers.