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Disrupting the natural atmosphere

Jessica Choi | Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unfortunately for Mr. Easley (“Global warming skeptic,” Dec. 7), we already know that climate change has been sped up by humans. Wildfires, volcanoes and other natural phenomena that occur annually have been occurring for a long time. But the amount of carbon dioxide released every time they occur has not been enough to cause a significant long term climate change because nature has counter-mechanisms to remove it from the air. Yes, Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines in 1991 did lower global temperatures for a few years. But over time, temperatures returned to levels similar to before the eruption as the greenhouse gases produced by the volcano were removed through the Earth’s natural processes. Let me provide an example. When a wildfire occurs, an entire chunk of a forest could be burned down. What happens afterwards? First primary succession, involving the growth of bacteria, fungi and other photosynthetic microorganisms that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, occurs. Otherwise, they would not be able to live on land lacking living organisms. Then photosynthetic mosses and lichens grow, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Subsequently, we get more higher-order plant growth and thus start a new circle of life. But starting a new cycle requires a huge carbon source, which most organisms get from the air to which large amounts of carbon dioxide had just been added. Thus, the accumulation of carbon dioxide emission is somewhat negated.

However, most of the gaseous emissions that human products and factories release into the air are unnatural and, sadly enough, there is no counter-mechanism to negate our actions. Mr. Easley is right in saying that we aren’t the only ones who cause a rise in greenhouse gases; but I believe we are the major contributors to its recent rapid accumulation. Compared to “pre-industrial” times, carbon dioxide emissions have risen by about 25 percent as of 1992 (Cline, William R., The Economics of Global Warming). That is why I would like to push for Climate Change Legislation and look forward to the results from Copenhagen. In addition, I also believe that supporting sustainability and “green” practices are a good idea because that would be our version of a “counter-mechanism” to the carbon dioxide release we cause. Initiating an “Elevated Discussion,” as was presented in Tuesday’s Observer, would also help others better understand why climate change is an issue and why sustainability should be supported.


Jessica Choi


Pasquerilla East Hall

Dec. 9