Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Fine Line: The Delicate Balance of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas

We have a tendency to think of methane and greenhouse gases as inherently bad, but this is not exactly the case. After all, without any greenhouse gas in our atmosphere we’d still be in an ice age, so what exactly is all the hype about?  Well, it’s true that greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is what makes life on earth possible, but too much of it on the other hand and the land masses will flood. This is why we need to be extremely careful about what we put into our atmosphere.

First of all, where did all this gas come from? Well, ever since the industrial revolution humans have been pouring methane into the atmosphere and increasing the ratio exponentially. All of this gas comes primarily from ruminant livestock, rice cultivation, landfills, and fossil fuel extraction. Check out this graph below which illustrates the sharp increase of methane in the atmosphere around the early 1900s.



So what are normal amounts of atmospheric methane? According to the chart above, we should be shooting for about 630 parts per billion, about 1/3 of the current levels! 

To make matters worse, the growing population coupled with the demand for these polluting commodities has exacerbated the issue. Here is a graph of the world population with an alarmingly similar exponential curve.



Thankfully, the news is not all doom and gloom. According to this chart compiled by Google using data from the World Bank, the rate of population expansion has been declining since the 1960s.



  
            
If you are not feeling the excitement yet, you should be! The World Bank also estimates that by the year 2015, the population growth rate will be down to below 0.5%. What this means is that our requirement for these resources (beef, natural gas, etc.) will be in less demand. Couple this with an intentional cultural shift to eat less beef, use less fossil fuel, and send less waste to landfills, we may very well be able to put a cap on this global methane concern.


There is however one critical component to stabilizing and eventually decreasing the greenhouse gas content in our atmosphere, and that is you. It will take effort on the part of every individual to decrease our meat consumption (in particular ruminant animals), be ever mindful of waste production, and take heed in the sources of our energy. With just a bit of conscious effort, we can preserve the atmosphere for future generations to enjoy as we have. To learn more about what you can do, visit methaneeducation.weebly.com. Also be sure to check out the other posts on this blog for more specific solution ideas. For an in depth analysis of the meat consumption situation and methane pollution, I recommend the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.


Learn more at http://methaneeducation.weebly.com

For additional great methane related information check out this site: http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/153147/.

For some writing from a fellow blogger read this one; it's intriguing and relevant: https://ourfiniteworld.com/2012/03/12/world-energy-consumption-since-1820-in-charts/.

The World Bank offers in depth studies and learning tools for those ready to take the next step: http://www.worldbank.org.

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