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January 6, 2013

Climate-change consensus and a call to 'photovoltaic' arms

(Continued)

This same graph also shows a small dip and leveling off in energy consumption starting in 2007 as a result of the Great Recession. As the economy began to recover, we can see the upturn in energy consumption begin again. The last two to three years are still below the recent past in terms of the amount of fossil fuels consumed and carbon dioxide emitted.

Apparently, increasing the fuel efficiency of our vehicles, home-insulation efforts, investments in wind and solar and some regulatory initiatives are beginning to have an impact.

The combustion of any fossil fuel (gas, coal, oil) releases energy and carbon dioxide. It is this huge quantity of greenhouse gas that is emitted into the atmosphere and its ever-rising levels that concerns climate scientists.

It should also concern our political leaders and every citizen on the planet.

This graph labeled “Monthly Carbon Dioxide Concentration” illustrates the issue. It shows the increasing concentration in parts per million of this gas over the past 50-plus years.

It is known as the Keeling Curve and was started by a graduate student in the 1950s, when precise spectroscopic instrumentation became available for the first time to allow the direct measurement of this gas.

This analytical procedure is used by many scientists at different locations around the globe, and increased levels are found everywhere.

The levels today are far higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years, based on analysis of ice cores in both the Arctic and Antarctic. These ice cores were obtained by drilling into the ice sheets or glaciers and are up to two miles long.

In  an op-ed piece in the New York Times (Dec. 13, 2012) we have a compelling case for a call to “photovoltaic” arms. It was written by David Crane, president of NRG, an energy company, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and president of Waterkeeper Alliance.

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