Your letter writer asks on Sept. 30 if anyone can explain how CO2 will harm plants and the Earth, given that plants take this gas from the air to live on. It’s a fair question, because the carbon-oxygen exchange was always presumed to be a stable system when I was in school.
But even then, our increasing levels of fuel consumption were destroying the balance that we live by, stressing the “exchange.” CO2 is heavier than oxygen; it’s a greenhouse gas that traps heat close to the planet’s surface, preventing the Earth from cooling off at night, with the overall global warming that we are now living with: hotter summers and winters, too, and warmer ocean waters that produce more frequent, and deadlier hurricanes by feeding heat into cyclonic patterns.
I became interested in this issue and sought information when I had relatives die in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago. But the hurricanes are not the half of it. Trees absorb CO2, but they’re at their absorption limit now. This gas pollutes the air but also enters seawater, acidifying the oceans and wrecking ecosystems there. Since we’re overgrazing and over farming our lands nowadays, disrupting the world’s fisheries is one of the last things we want to do, for our own food prospects, which are already threatened by land and water pollution.
But that’s not all. It seems that we have set into motion a worldwide heating trend carried on ocean waters that reach both poles, North and South alike. The loss of polar ice is handicapping the Earth’s ability to deflect the sun’s heat rays back into space. Instead, the darker-color lands exposed from melting icecaps and glaciers worldwide are absorbing more heat, more quickly, accelerating the warming trend and endangering the entire planet and everything on it.
There are those in public office who want to drill for more oil in the polar regions, adding to the gas and particle emissions from the fossil fuels that cause global warming in the first place. Add to this the fact that our pollution controls on vehicles have been relaxed in the U.S., even as we’re capable of generalizing them through the population and addressing this environmental crisis with more and more sophistication. Instead, the U.S. is refusing to sign treaties to limit the global warming that is quickly pricing us out of a planet. This is not hyperbole. I don’t know about you, but I have grandchildren and I’d like them to survive me.