It’s Elemental: Air

Air – without it we cannot exist. Humans and animals need it to breath, plants and trees need it for their intricate process of photosynthesis. The earth needs it to maintain its temperature. Despite these essential functions this element has not been respected as it deserves to be. Its chemical make up is out of balance and it’s getting increasingly more polluted. Kim Henry takes a deep breath and looks at what is happening in the air around us.
Air is:
Nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide.
Each gas has its own delicate function. Carbon dioxide keeps the earth at an inhabitable temperature for humans and animals, by trapping just the right amount of heat created by the sun. Without it, the sun rays would bounce off into oblivion and earth would be far too chilly to survive on.
Human activity has drastically increased the quantity of Carbon dioxide in the air and this increase has created a condition in the upper atmosphere that is holding in more heat than ever, hence the term the ‘Greenhouse Effect.’
This Global Warming is melting the ice shelves of Greenland and Antarctica and glaciers worldwide resulting in larger surfaces of water, that absorb heat and smaller surfaces of ice, that reflect heat. Warmer seas affect wind and current flows which in turn affects weather patterns which affects the migration and reproduction cycles of hundreds of animals and sea life and so the chain goes on.
The condition is compounded by mass deforestation, taking away the trees that absorb CO2 and give out oxygen. They can’t do this if they’re being chopped down.
The predictions may sound like small figures of rising temperatures, but to put it into context, we are only 4 or 5 degrees centigrade away from an ice age, so a degree or two in the opposite direction now takes on a whole new meaning.
Burning vast amounts of fossil fuels as we drive cars, fly planes, produce electricity by coal combustion, blow up bombs, run factories.
All these activities (plus pesticides in farming, fumes from paint, smoking) are constantly polluting the air.
World Health Organization estimates 4.6 million deaths a year are caused from problems directly related to air pollution such as asthma, bronchitis, lung disease.
Diseases that were kept in check by cold temperatures are on the rise, malaria has already spread to higher altitudes around the world.
As temperatures are changing so quickly, weather patterns are affected resulting in a chaos of droughts, flash floods, hurricanes. The number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
Melting ice-caps are causing a rise of sea levels, threatening to wipe out the coastal population worldwide.
More than a million species of animal and plant life world wide could be extinct within 50 years due to global warming.
The past decade has featured 5 of the hottest years ever recorded.
In Spain, half of the glaciers that were present in 1980 are gone.
While we have time we all need to look at the part we can play in the solution to this most pressing problem of our existence. Invest in alternative energy, buy locally produced goods, use car pooling schemes, use public transport, adopt basic energy saving actions in the home, support organic farming and products, fly less, curb mass consuming, pressure politicians and multi-nationals to put the earth first.
We are all a drop in the ocean but together we are a mighty sea – every drop of conservation and awareness is valuable and powerful!
A documentary on Global Warming by the ex vice-president of America, Al Gore. It’s very clear and full of extremely well substantiated facts. Al Gore met with Zapatero who has said that the film will be shown to school children. Watch it if you can!
An amendment to the International Treaty on Climate Change, declaring that, by 2008 all those who have ratified it will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% below 1990 levels.
169 countries have signed it, including Spain and the UK, with the notable exceptions of Australia and America. Many states and cities in the USA are now signing up in defiance of their own government.
Countries with the highest CO2 emissions
1 America
2 China
3 Russia
4 India
5 Japan
The UK is 7th and Spain is 20th, although Spain’s emissions had risen 40% between 1990 & 2004.
China and India are exempt from the call for reduction of CO2 as it is said that the situation has arisen from the developed countries.
The deadline is only a year away; we shall see what has been achieved.
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This post is also available in: Spanish

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