“Carbon Dioxide is an inconvenient product of easy living”
In John Sandford’s new thriller, Saturn Run, the famous mystery writer tells of a future voyage to Saturn where an American team learns of the future from aliens. One of the most fascinating fictional disclosures is the universe is filled with great starships, They carry whole cultures in search of new planets to replace their home planets destroyed by global warming from carbon dioxide (CO2). http://www.amazon.com/Saturn-Run-John-Sandford-ebook/dp/B00USMCJX6/
On the other hand, we may have the same problem here on Earth. Our planet produces and absorbs CO2 in a balance through oceans and plant life. In this balance much of that CO2 becomes stored in the Earth in carbon fossils. In simple terms, when we burn fossil fuels we release that stored CO2 and cause an imbalance. This imbalance contributes to the increase in the CO2 that blankets the earth and our climate gets “global warming.” Essentially, we use energy from fossil fuels to make life more convenient, yet the result is higher unabsorbed CO2 causing a warming planet. This is pretty much the theory that governments are working on to fight global warming by cutting back on burning fossil fuels.
What can an individual do about the problem of too much CO2 on our planet? Let’s try to get a handle on the size of the problem.
In 2011 according to the World Bank statistics for countries on the planet, the United States contributed per capita about 17 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in our use of fossil fuels. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC/
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a partial answer for citizens. It is called the Household Emission Calculator. It lists the assumptions and references for categories of CO2 emissions. The calculator allows you to analyze your CO2 contributions in pounds of CO2 and perhaps cut back on them. http://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ .
Here are some of the EPA categories and instructions on how to calculate your own household contribution. You can learn how much you can save if, for example, you lower the house room temperature only one degree.
Category one: Household vehicles. There are two calculations: One uses the EPA statistics drawn from fuel economy. The other is higher and uses the full fuel lifecycle including extraction, processing and transportation of fuel.
21,100 pounds is average per year per household.
Category two: Electricity which averages about 14920 pounds per year assuming 957 kWh month.
Category three: Natural Gas, which, if you use it, averages about 8,049 pounds per year assuming 5,583 cubic feet.
Category four: Fuel Oil, which, if that is your choice, averages about 16,779 pounds per year, assuming 62 gallons /month.
Category five: Propane, which if you use it, averages about 5,679 pounds, assuming 38 gallons /month.
Category six: Waste Disposal. According to the EPA if we can reduce packaging and non-packaging paper products, recycle construction debris and improve composting and recycling we could substantially cut CO2 emissions. Perhaps we could cut our household contribution to this CO2 total if we send our newspaper, glass, plastic, metal and magazine trash to the most efficient recycling which is the cause of the CO2.
Think about the real cost of our inconvenient product of easy living. It’s a debt we can’t repay. However, we can cut down the increasing debt. For example, if we walk more and drive less we can make a difference in producing CO2. Perish the thought, but we could turn off the car air conditioner and drive with the windows down. We can all imagine steps we can take. Remember, if the planet gets too sick, there is really no good cure or pill we can give it. We don’t want our grandchildren to have to migrate to a new planet on one of those starships that Sandford writes about in his novel.