The air you breathe
Sunday, March 10, 2019
The March 6 edition of The Daily Reflector carried a column by Walter Williams in which most of the space is used to run through various historical cataclysms that failed to blow our planet apart — Krakatoa, the great earthquakes in Chile and Indonesia, and so on. He concludes that the Earth is not fragile and then finishes with an ad hominem attack on “environmentalists.”
I believe the readers need a little more information. The earth has an equatorial diameter of 7,926 miles. From the depths of the Mariana Trench to the top of Mount Everest is a total of 13 miles or 0.16 percent total variance from the diameter. Most life on earth is found in a 2-mile band or 0.03 percent of the diameter. The earth is basically a Q-ball with a microscopic biofilm on its surface. Into this biofilm we are spewing an incomprehensible amount of carbon dioxide. Instead of a punctate event, we are deliberately changing the air we breathe. Very different.
If you take a good mileage car, 30 mpg, and drive it 15,000 miles in a year, that equates to 500 gallons of gasoline. Gasoline weighs close to 9 pounds a gallo, so 4,500 pounds. Gasoline is almost entirely octane, C8H18, and complete oxidation produces 8 molecules of CO2 and triples the weight. So, multiply by 3 and divide by 2,000 pounds and your fuel-efficient car has pumped about 6.5 tons of CO2 into the air that you breathe. Multiply by 150 million vehicles in the U.S., same for Europe, same for China and India, same for the rest of the world, throw in planes, trains, trucks, power plants and the amount is beyond any comprehension.
The earth does have buffering systems. But, every chemist will tell you that any buffering system can be overwhelmed, and that is what we are doing to the microscopic biofilm that we live in. Pity that Mr. Williams continues to fail to understand what is happening.