When I drive to Medina, about 12 miles from my home, it takes about 15 minutes. During the drive, I sometimes think about what it would be like to be driving straight upward into the earth’s atmosphere.
When I think about the fact that in the equivalent of one-half of my 12-mile drive, I would leave the first layer of our atmosphere called the troposphere.
What happens in this narrow troposphere is nearly all weather, clouds and 99% of all water vapor. Six miles strikes me as not very far considering it takes about five-tosix minutes to drive that distance.
By the time I have gone the six miles and reach the next layer of the atmosphere, called the stratosphere, I will need a breathing apparatus with pressurized oxygen and definitely lots of clothing as the temperature will hit 40 below zero.
What is evident is that we reside in an extremely narrow, fragile band of air and weather conducive to life.
Although we treat the atmosphere as a dumping ground for all sorts of gases from the fires we burn in our vehicles, power plants, factories, as well as chemicals we produce, it seems obvious to me that there must be limits.
The fact is we are finding that out the hard way - and it is not going to get easier.
It has been over 30 years that serious warnings have been coming from scientists that this narrow band around our planet can be upset by changing the gas ratios within it, particularly the gas carbon dioxide.
These carbon dioxide gas increases do not reside where they originate, scientists say; those increases encompass the entire planet. They act as a blanket holding the earth’s heat in.
The thicker the blanket, the more heat that is trapped. This causes a multitude of upsetting effects to our climate over the entire planet.
A planetary effect that can upset wind patterns, sea levels, ocean chemistry and currents, temperatures, rainfall amounts, intensity and frequency, thereby causing flooding, drought, wildfires, super storms and other negative ecological effects is what is termed an existential threat –a threat to existence.
This is serious stuff.
We have few ways to organize ourselves to address a global threat. Our governments are the best route we have.
Governments are, ostensibly, designed to represent our societal interests and well-being. In face of an existential threat, we should want our government to act on our behalf.
Sadly, that is not happening in our country.
Rolling back conservation efforts, promoting carbon-producing fossil fuel businesses, disparaging clean energy, eliminating climate research, abandoning international cooperation - the United States’ government policies are going in the opposite direction from the one that is needed.
Carbon dioxide levels were around 280ppm (parts per million) at the start of the industrial era. The level reached 400ppm in 2013 and is now at 415ppm.
To reduce ever growing climate threats, the world needs to reduce the addition of more carbon dioxide by 7% per year, according to scientists. It is currently increasing each year.
As we see examples over and over again of the increasing numbers of climate-related disasters, we cannot be complacent.
Democratic Presidential candidates see this challenge as real and needing bold action.
It is well past time for leadership that attempts to fix this problem, not intensify it.