Friday, December 14, 2007

Fighting Global Warming

It is important to focus on the main problem of a high ecological footprint, rather than mitigating the more obvious consequences of any particular part of that footprint. In the case of carbon dioxide, much of the public focus has been on dealing with global warming by reducing direct carbon dioxide emissions, while some technologists have sought to address the “warming” part by proposing the decrease of sunlight striking the Earth through cloud seeding or orbital sun shields.

Any “solution” to global warming must keep the overall ecological footprint from growing; otherwise, the solution might be as harmful as the problem.

Carbon dioxide emissions currently account for an estimated 76 percent of the maximum sustainable footprint (MSF), while other components of the ecological footprint (grazing land, fishing, forest use, nuclear, built up land, and crops) account for an additional 83 percent. Of the other components, crops have the greatest potential of growing in their impact on the environment: At 34 percent of the MSF, my projections show this component taking up an entire maximum sustainable footprint by itself in 2037 (carbon dioxide by that time will be 137 percent, with the remaining components summing up to 85 percent). One of the most popular proposals for dealing with global warming is to grow organic fuel to replace gasoline, since fossil fuel burning is the main contributor of our carbon dioxide emissions. Growing more crops for ethanol replacement of gasoline would necessarily increase cropland, and add to its ecological footprint. If the condition for our population crashing is having the ecologic footprint exceed the surface area of the Earth, then my worst-case projections do not rule out this component being able to kill us all by itself.

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