Letter: Climate emergency
Our lifestyle of ease built on the back of fossil fuel combustion has created a reality impossible to ignore longer. It is unknowable exactly when the physical climate, itself, will double down on our excesses and cause unsurvivable change. There is uncertainty about when human emissions will saturate and overwhelm the two biggest carbon storage systems: the oceans and our fire-ravaged and insect-ridden forests. Or when the permafrost will release the methane captured and held beneath frozen tundra.
We get little information and no help from the government with our current blind administration. To most it is clear that the government has disavowed its duty to protect and inform citizenry, in favor of business interests and the cult of money.
But the one thing we can control is our behavior. We desperately need to stay focused on making as many correct choices as possible.
Inarguably driving has consequences. I’m trying to be calm here but “treating climate change as ‘just another political issue’ is to confuse a burning theater with a stage effect.”
It seems impossible that a gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6.3 lbs. could produce 20 lbs. of carbon dioxide when burned. However, most of the weight of the CO2 doesn’t come from the weight of the gasoline itself, but the oxygen in the air.
When gasoline burns, the carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water, and the carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.
A carbon atom has a weight of 12, and each oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of CO2 an atomic weight of 44 (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).
Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline, the weight of the carbon in the gasoline is multiplied by 44/12, or 3.7.
Since gasoline is about 87 percent carbon and 13 percent hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gas weighs 5.5 lbs. (6.3 lbs. x .87).
We can multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, which equals 20 lbs. of CO2.
My 36 mpg Honda puts approximately 200 lbs. of CO2 into the atmosphere every time I drive to Denver and back. CO2 sticks around, some people say five years, some people say 200 years. The natural mechanisms that capture and convert CO2 are being compromised. Forests are dying due to drought and disease and oceans are becoming acidic.
Picture all those cars, all those trips, all those years, in combination with power plants, various manufacturing processes, airplanes (the worst), lawnmowers, leaf blowers, ATVs, motor boats, farm equipment, etc. All this CO2 along with methane and other greenhouse gases creates a layer that no longer lets solar radiation be reflected back into space, hence warming.
We all know that warm air holds more moisture than cooler air. This warmer air supercharges our storms if there is water around or, it just causes terrible heat. As we dump carbon from piggish pickups, overheated and underinsulated houses and my Honda into the atmosphere, we assure ourselves that the effects will be in the far future. And they are happening now.