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In the fight against global warming, we must see the big picture

Thursday, April 24, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:44 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Gov is calling for a “Show-Me Green” tax holiday so we can all go out and buy new Energy Star appliances with our federal rebate checks. I wonder if the Blunts have shopped for a new dishwasher or, for that matter, any appliance since entering the executive office. I wonder if the Gov realizes that manufacturing the new appliance may actually be increasing our carbon footprint.

My father and I are pilots and golfers. Conversations typically begin and end with weather reports from the middle of Middle America and from either Florida (the winter months) or New York (the summer months). Our last cold snap had my dad wondering about global warming. He tends to see things in front of his face clearly, but the large picture becomes a bit fuzzy.

“David, do you think that global warming is a natural cycle of things or is man-made?”

This was not the first time he asked but it was the first time he listened — intently.

I have students who argue both sides of this tale. I read the accounts in National Geographic, Discover, Scientific America and newspapers. I understand the irregular cycles of warming and cooling as a natural phenomenon over our planet’s 4.5-billion years of existence. So, what is the answer?

Sure, a new dishwasher will save on energy costs and will reduce greenhouse emissions, but only if everyone in Missouri takes the hint and buys a new dishwasher. There are other ways we can do our part as citizens of the planet, reducing the human effects on global warming. We need to look at the larger picture.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research says the planet’s temperature is affected by its slight axis wobble, the temperature and circulation of ocean currents (the Gulf Stream, El Nino and La Nina), droughts, floods and other natural occurrences. The particles thrown into the air from forest fires, volcanoes, dust storms and smokestacks directly affect the process, returning to the surface as dust and rain, sometimes as acid rain.

Yet it is man-made pollutants that accelerate the warming process. Carbon dioxide from cars, trucks, airplanes, power plants and other carbon-based energy users. From creating ethanol fuels from corn; pumping irrigation water to transport the new fuel to the gas station. From the production, delivery and recycling of the Missourian newspaper.

Discover looked into its own “carbon footprint,” examining the life cycle of one issue, from trees to recycling. One individual copy is responsible for 2.1 pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. More than 170 tons of carbon dioxide released per issue per month or more than 2 million tons a year. To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., a million tons of carbon dioxide here and million tons of carbon dioxide there and soon it adds up to pretty big pollution.

Kathy and I examined our own “footprint” and found that we emit between 12 and 17 tons of carbon dioxide a year for just two people with one car. That translates to more than 8.5 million tons a year for Missouri citizens alone — excluding carbon dioxide produced by farms, factories and offices throughout the state.

Global warming is part of the natural cycle, but the human inhabitants of Earth are not helping.

Here are a few ideas. We need to encourage Missouri farmers to switch to the more efficient switchgrass instead of corn for ethanol, reducing the statewide carbon footprint and the cost of food. We need to legislate emission inspections for all vehicles statewide. We need to initiate an intrastate mass transportation system. We need to provide tax incentives to use more recycled papers and plastics products. These are simple, cost-effective ways to reduce Missouri’s carbon dioxide footprint, allowing the citizens to use the refunds to, let’s say, pay bills. Or buy clothes and books for school. Or starting a savings account.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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Comments

Mark Foecking April 24, 2008 | 11:16 a.m.

Switchgrass, at this point, is an immature and unproven technology. Commercial ethanol from that process is years, if not decades, away.

Emissions inspections will not decrease the amount of CO2 emitted from a particular vehicle. Only using the vehicle less can do that.

Recycling, depending on where the products have to be transported to, how they are handled, and what they are, can actually increase the amount of CO2 emitted relative to simply burying the products in a landfill.

Our only short term solution is to conserve. And in order to make a meaningful effort, we have to conserve drastically. Every individual must participate. If not, we may as well not do anything.

DK

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