Rachel Crandell Earth Day, April 22, 2001 
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Energy: A Front Burner Issue
Principia College
by Rachel Crandell
We stand here on this beautiful chapel green overlooking the mighty mother of waters looking out across fertile farmland. We should look quick! It won't stay this way forever. There are so many changes afoot at this period that no one knows for sure how fast they will come, but they are already coming. Climate change has been accelerating for the last hundred years and now at an ever quickening pace.

Energy and climate are two words that go hand in hand today. Since most of the world's energy and certainly most of our energy is the result of burning fossil fuels, we are most certainly releasing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, creating an ever thickening blanket that holds in the heat and warms our planet. Almost everyone now acknowledges that this accelerated warming is human-induced. Of course, there are natural causes of warming, volcanoes, El Niño, but beyond those, new evidence that human-induced effects are changing our climate has come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Barnett of Scripps said that the "fingerprint" of human influence on the warming climate is "so bold and big that you don't have to do any fancy statistics to beat it out of the data. It's just there." (St.Louis Post-Dispatch, April 13, 2001, AP) And "American cars, factories, and power plants emit 25% of the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere making the US the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases." (Amicus Journal, Spring 2001, p.8)

Global temperatures are believed to have risen about 1.1 degrees over the last century. According to UN: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent predictions, global temperatures will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees in the next 100 years. Let me repeat that. Temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees in the last 100 years, and are predicted to rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees in the next 100 years. That is unnatural acceleration! Instruments became available in the 1950s that made it possible to measure the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and monitor it around the world. In an article entitled "Fiddling While the World Burns" (Amicus Journal Spring 2001) George Woodwell writes, "Suddenly data were available showing a year by year accumulation of CO2 and powerful evidence of the importance of the interactions between the atmosphere and natural ecosystems: an annual cycle of rising and falling carbon dioxide concentrations following the seasonal metabolism of northern hemisphere forests. Woodwell writes in Amicus Journal, "my colleagues and I could see the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere fall every summer as forests of North America took up carbon, and rise every winter as respiration dominated over photosynthesis and the forests released carbon. It was clear that the forests have a very large role in determining the composition of the atmosphere. Such a thought was heresy at the time, but is now universally accepted." Another idea that is gaining acceptance is that of "ecosystem services". Wetlands purify water free of charge. Insects pollinate crops free of charge. Forests moderate climate free of charge. (Nucleus, Winter 2000-2001 p. 12) Yet these ecosystem services are very valuable and costly to duplicate if the natural process no longer functions due to destruction. When we begin to value the bio-capital, we do our economics on a different scorecard.

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