EarthBook
EarthBook

EarthBookUs - a web Book about the impact of us on our Earth.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level." Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, 2007

There still may be time to avoid severe climate change by drastically slowing the flow of CO2 into the atmosphere. We can no longer afford to allow the fossil fuel industry, through their congressional lobbies, to have influence over setting or enforcing emissions levels. We must demand fast and decisive action from our politicians to prevent this on-coming climate-change disaster from happening.

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Chapter 1: Introduction

There are many reasons why life on Earth as we know it is possible. For example, the Sun, which is half way through its 10 billion or so star life span, is in its most stable phase; overall the Earth has a stable orbit around the Sun; and the Earth, which on average is about 93 million miles from the Sun, is neither too close to the Sun, as is Venus, nor too far, as is Mars, to support life. We owe our very existence to our unique location and time in the Universe and the overall environmental conditions on Earth.

In the Cenozoic Era, about 65 million years ago, there was no ice on the planet, the sea level was about 240 ft higher than today, and Earth's CO2 level was about 1000ppm (parts per million). Today the CO2 level is 387ppm and climbing. It is estimated that in order to combat global warming, and in turn climate change, the CO2 level must be reduced or turn back to 350 ppm. This, although necessary, will not be easy to do. The sooner the world population does this, however, the more likely it is that we (people of the world) and our grandchildren will survive this dilemma, but, we must act soon and with great determination. Next to thermal nuclear war, climate change is the elephant in the room.

For the most part, the Earth's climate for the last 2000 years or so has been fairly stable. This stability, however, is changing as we enter into the first human-caused global-warming phase characterized by the steady atmospheric increase in green-house gases, such as the most dominate one over which humans have control, carbon dioxide (CO2). For example, CO2 atmospheric levels have increased to the point not seen on our planet in over 160,000 years.

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Associated with this CO2 increase is the lock-step increase in Earth's average temperature, or global warmth, due to Earth's green-house effect. Global warming (GW) is the increase over time of global warmth, as we are experiencing now, otherwise, there is global cooling (GC) if global warmth decreases over time. It is GW (or GC) which in turn, causes or drives climate change. At this time, GW is driving our climate change (CC).

One of the most important aspects of GW is that even seemingly modest increases in global temperatures can drive or cause major and disastrous climate-change conditions, such as, a more frequent number of hot days, prolonged drought, sea level rise, floods, wild fires, species die off, species migration, an increased frequency and strength of storms including hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes, and the emergence of new animal diseases, plant diseases, and pests.

As time passes, four of the major GW-driven climate-change impacts on humans will be: availability of water, stability of food production, sea level rise, and the destruction of forests by wild fires. Climate change is happening now and will continue to happen. The only questions are: For how long and at what rate will it occur? How bad will CC get? Can we do anything about it? Will we do anything about it?

The last question is easy to evaluate since it breaks down into four fundamental substatements where one of which can only happen because GW is happening or it's not and we take action or don't:
(a) If GW is not occurring, and we do something (like reduce our CO2 emissions), then we are ok.
(b) If GW is not occurring, and we do nothing, then we are ok.
(c) If GW is occurring, and we do something (like reduce our CO2

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emissions), then we are ok.

(d) If GW is occurring, and we do nothing, then we are not ok (in a big way).

The only sub-statements in this analysis that will be disastrous for us is the last one (d), which unfortunately is the path our Congress is on at this time thanks in large part to the fossil fuel (oil and coal) industry and their misinformation and lobbying efforts, the apathy of the general public, and the Tea Party, for note that, in the 2010 elections more than half of the newly elected Republicans did not believe in Global Warming. This is a tragedy since the Science is so overwhelmingly clear that GW is occurring and we know why: human activity caused CO2 emissions.

At this point in our industrial and technological development, the Earth is ours to ignore or do with as we wish at our own well being or peril. One thing is clear, in 1000 years the Earth will still be in its stable obit around our stable star, it just not clear whether or not humans will exist to continue enjoying the ride.

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Chapter 2: Air

Animals, including us, need oxygen from the atmospheric or air to live. Plants need the atmospheric CO2 in their photosynthesis process to produce energy to exist. The atmosphere also protects living creatures by absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation from our sun. The atmosphere acts to retain heat through its greenhouse effect and even out the temperature differences between the day and cold dark of the night. Without the atmosphere, we and life as we know it would not exist.

The Earth's air or atmosphere is made up of different layers of gases enveloping our planet and tied to it by gravity. These layers include the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermo-sphere, and exosphere, respectively, from the earth's surface to outer space. The troposphere, which contains about 80% of the atmosphere's mass, is made up by volume of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, .9% argon, .06% water and trace amounts of other gases such as methane, and .04% carbon dioxide.

The two big green-house gases (GHG) in the atmosphere are water and CO2, however, water in the air in its various forms is part of a natural cycle, about which we can do little. Other atmospheric trace gases such as methane (CH4), an even stronger GHG than CO2, appear in the air in relatively small amounts at this time. That leaves CO2 as the major GHG that we can do somehing about. Recall from the introduction that when the CO2 level in the atmosphere goes up, so does global warmth. CO2 is a driving variable in global warming, hence a driving or forcing factor in climate change.

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Chapter 3: Water

90% of the Earth's ice and 70% of fresh water is frozen in the ice of Antarctica at the South Pole, where the average ice thickness is 7,000 feet. If all Antarctica's ice melted, world-wide sea levels would rise about 200 feet, however, the temperature of most of Antarctica does not rise above freezing.

On the opposite side of the Earth at the North Pole, is the Arctic, a large floating ice mass in the Arctic Ocean, however, the arctic ice is not nearly as thick as the ice in the Antarctica. At the end of September, 2007, the Arctic sea ice dropped 39% below the average of the 1979 to 2000 period; its lowest level since 1979, when satellite measurements of the Arctic first started being made. The ice drop was so great that at end of September, 2007, the Northwest Passage, a water short cut between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, completely opened up for the first time in recorded history.

If global warming trends continue, then by 2030, it may happen that the Arctic Ocean will be completely ice free during the summer months, however, if the Arctic ice melts, the impact on overall sea level will be small since Arctic ice is already floating in sea water.

Nearby, but for the most part south of the Arctic, is the world's largest non-continent island, Greenland, 81% covered in ice. Because Greenland is more southernly than the Arctic, its ice is more likely to melt as global warming continues. If Greenland's ice were to completely melt, the world's sea levels would rise by about 23 feet.

Global warming causes overall air and water temperature

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increases due in large part to the continued increase in the human production of global warming gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2). As ocean water temperatures rise, water expands increasing in volume and glacier ice melts both adding additional water volume to the worlds oceans, in turn, causing sea levels to rise.

In the last 100 year, sea levels have risen by 6 inches, however, glaciers are now melting at a much faster rate than they were a hundred years ago only exacerbating the sea level water rise phenomenon which is beginning to have a world wide disruptive impact. This growing global water crisis is one of humanity's greatest and complex challenges. With the strategic management and conservation of water resources being a top priority, the global human response to the impact of rising sea level on habitats and built infrastructure will be critical for their survival.

All over the world, major urban centers will be affected by rising sea level caused by global warming and climate change. Cities like New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Amsterdam, New Orleans, Buenos Aires and Venice will need to plan for the impacts associated with rising waters. Many are in fact doing so now.

As the global community begins to have an in depth understanding of the modern human relationship with water, looking at international models will be vital to developing solutions and coping strategies. Fortunately, there are organizations dedicated to advocating for these issues and getting the message out to policy makers.

Green infrastructure is an area where the issue of rising water levels can be somewhat alleviated. Through planning,

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implementation and community involvement places vulnerable to sea level rise can be protected. From ecological restoration to creating green cities, there are many technologies and methods that can serve as solutions to dealing with rising water.

For example, impervious surfaces such a concrete increase an urban areas vulnerability to flooding. It is important that developers, architects and engineers are aware of smart growth strategies that can be incorporated into design. In New York for example, there are new smart growth and infrastructure laws that will guide decision making in this area.

Habitat and wildlife will also be impacted as well as entire ecosystems that all life on the planet depends on for survival. Looking at water from a watershed perspective will be important when exploring sea level rise solutions. How the land is handled, managed and developed impacts not only the water quality, but the quality of life.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is estimated that a one percent loss in wetlands within a watershed can increase flooding by almost seven percent. In fact, about one million gallons of water can be retained in a one acre wetland. Destruction of this natural green infrastructure can have detrimental effects in a region threatened by rising sea level.

Flooding is not only an environmental issue, it's an economic one as well, since flood damage can be expensive and, in severe cases, financially crippling for a city or community, as was seen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Failure to first acknowledge climate-change sea-level rise, followed by failing to effectively manage water resources before sea levels

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rise to unprecedented levels, can result in devastating lose of life, property, and financial resources in high-flood risks regions, especially if such a region is venerable to big nature events, such as, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.

Solutions to climate-change sea-level rise related flooding, require an integrated systems approach and support from the public, private businesses, major corporations, academic institutions, first responders and government officials.

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Environmental Note: Rising temperatures due to global warming are causing Arctic ice to melt producing ocean runoff containing ancient toxins and nuclear waste.

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Chapter 4: Land

The Earth's land area, the solid ground underfoot, is divided into seven land regions largely by convenience: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia (largest to smallest).

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the world's largest independent conservation organization, has divided Earth's land area into eight ecozones or zones of life: Palearctic (most of Eurasia and North Africa), Nearctic ( most of North America), Afrotropic (Sub-Saharan Africa), Neotropic (South America and the Caribbean), Australasia (Australia, New Guinea and surrounding islands), Indomalaya (Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent), Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia), and Antarctic (Antarctica.)

Ecozones are defined by the evolutionary history of the biolife they contain, rather than by the locational convenience in the continential listing scheme. The distribution of life forms in these ecozones was originally determined by the early continential drift driven by the plate tectonics process.

One climate-change warning sign, is the degree to which plant and animal migrations between ecozones is occurring. These migrations can be expected, for example, in ecozones undergoing persistent warming or drought conditions. In a study done by Kelly and Goulden, "Rapid shifts in plant distribution with recent climate change", (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), clear evidence of climate warming driving dominant plant species of one area to move about 65m up in elevation to inhabit a cooler environment was detected by comparing the results of two

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surveys done about 30 years a part, in the Santa Rosa Mountains of Southern California.

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Environmental Note: There is enough sequestered carbon in the Arctic ice to double the amount of greenhouse gases in the current atmosphere, when released through ice melt.

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Chapter 5: Plants

The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. About 3.8 billion years ago there was no oxygen in the "atmosphere" which then was composed of carbon dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen, and methane. It was during this period when the first organisms appeared.

From about 360 to 299 million years ago, during the Carboniferous Period, one of the last periods of the Paleozoic Era, the climate was more tropical, humid and uniform than today. Then much of the Earth was covered with subtropical forests and swamps that were filled with plant life consising of ferns, trees, club moss growing up to 30 metres, and large leafy plants.

The oceans during this period were filled near the surface with phytoplankton and green algae. The greenness of many of these organisms was due to the green-colored pigment chlorophyll they contained. The chlorophyll was used by the organisms in a photosynthesis process, with sunlight as the energy source, to separate the carbon and oxygen atoms of the carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules they take in from the atmosphere. The separated carbon plus water, taken in by the organism, was used to produce various sugar forms for the organism's functioning. The separated oxygen was returned to the atmosphere as a waste by product.

Over long periods of time as plants died in the swamp forests on land, layer-by-layer their remains were buried in the Earth where they eventually turned into coal. The remains of dead phytoplankton and algae settled to the ocean floor where they also were buried and eventually turned into oil. Similar processes also produced natural gas. Coal, oil, and natural gas make up the fossil fuels. For millions of years, these kinds of organisms have

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been filling the atmosphere with oxygen and sequestering carbon in the form of fossil fuels. This sequestering process has kept a large enough amount of carbon out of the atmosphere so that the Earth's green-house temperature has stayed below a temperature threshold for life as we know it to come into being and continue to exist to the present. The third thing they did was provide us with a convenient source of energy for humankind's industrial era.

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Environmental Note: If global warming is not effectively dealt with soon, then the Arctic melt turns into a disastrous event for mankind.

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Chapter 6: Animals

Ecozones are defined by the evolutionary history of the biolife they contain, rather than of the locational convenience in the continental listing scheme. The distribution of life forms in these ecozones was originally determined by the early continental drift driven by the plate tectonics process.

One of the warning signs that climate change is happening, is the degree to which animal migrations between ecozones is occurring. These migrations can be expected, for example, in ecozones undergoing persistent warming or drought conditions.

Changing the migration times and location destinations interfere with a species' sheltering, food supply availability, and breeding cycles, thus decreasing species survival possibilities. Animals failing to migrate may face worst conditions in their natural regions due to climate change where regional temperature increases may decrease their food supply.

For example, Some butterflies and birds are not only starting their yearly migrations earlier but they also are migrating further North. In fact, the migration patterns of the state birds of Iowa, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, Maryland, and California may change completely out of their home states by the end of this century according to a study by the National Wildlife Federation.

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Chapter 7: Climate

Earth's "effective-surface" or "starting-surface" temperature (see note 1 below) is about -18° C, while its actual (on-average) surface temperature is about 14° C. The temperature difference is due to the heat retained by the Earth's atmosphere. Another way to look at this, is that the Earth's average surface temperature or "global warmth" is the combination of the Earth's starting temperature and its retained atmospheric heat. Of interest then, is how this "global warmth" changes over time; if it on average increases over a period of time, there is "global warming" over this period, likewise; if it decreases, there is "global cooling".

How much and how fast is "global warmth" changing, if at all, and are there any worse case scenarios? If so, under what conditions is a worse case scenario possible? For example, can "global warming" increase in a fast run-away like manner, such that reversing it is impossible, resulting in a condition where the Earth's surface eventually ends up like the surface of Venus, in a near molten-hot state, with all surface water evaporated? On the other hand, maybe there are no conditions under which this can occur.

With so much at stake, who can we depend on and who should we look to for reliable information and for making the best possible decisions; politicians, religious leaders, scientists, maybe fortune tellers? For example, more than half of the newly elected Republicans do not believe in Global Warming. Is this reasonable when the vast majority of scientists world wide now treat global warming as irrefutable scientific fact? Are these new Republicans so out of touch? How are they being influenced and by whom? If they act on erroneous information, then the decisions they make,

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or fail to make, can have disastrous environmental consequences for us all. If they make poor decisions now, the consequences of those decisions will be with us long after their political careers have ended.

With so much at stake, who should we depend on for guidance on how to proceed? If there's one thing we can depend on, it's that the Earth's climate, like with a hurricane or earthquake, follows only the laws of physics, and acts in a completely ruthless manner when the necessary physical conditions are present. Nothing else matters. It is very clear that human behavior changes conditions on Earth. The recent gulf oil spill is one example. The question is: will our accumulated actions lead to the setting up of the necessary physical conditions for a ruthless global-warming worst-case response?

Note 1: In general, a planets "effective-surface" temperature is its surface temperature if it absorbed all the radiation coming to it from its star and re-emitted all of this "black-body" radiation back into space.

Note 2: To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the degrees in C by 1.8, then add 32. Example, -18°C = (-18*1.8 + 32)°F = (-32.4 + 32)°F = .4°F. While 14°C = (14*1.8 + 32)°F = (25.2+32)°F = 57.2°F. Likewise, to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, multiply the degrees in F by 5/9, then subtract 32. (Also 1.8 = 9/5.)

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Environmental Note: Rising temperatures due to global warming are causing Arctic ice to melt producing ocean runoff containing ancient toxins and nuclear waste.

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Chapter 8: People

Based on United Nations population forecasts, the world's population is now over seven billion and growing.(The U.S. population is now over 312 million.) A large percentage of the world's population is coming out of low-carbon-use poverty into the high-use-carbon middle class. Failure to significantly reverse human CO2 emmissions, will result in additional global-warming stress which inturn will have a severe negative impact on the majority of species of this planet including our own as the devastating consequences of global warming continue to unfold.

For example, seventy percent of the population lives in the world’s tropics and major climate changes would directly impact most of them. In one example, the National Academy of Sciences published, in their August 10, 2010, edition, a study linking illegal immigration from Mexico to global warming. Arguing that as global warming causes dryer Mexican climate, arid and unproductive farmlands result in many farmers, farm workers, and support workers migrating North. In fact, for the last decade, Northern Mexico has suffered a drought.

The sad irony is that many Republicans while not believing in global warming, are calling for the most severe illegal immigration measures todate, however, failing to take meaningful actions to stop global warming only encourages, counter-productively, illegal immigration.

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Chapter 9: Energy

Energy is one of the most basic phenomenon in our lives. Everything we do from walking down the street to flying in a jet plane to the other side of the Earth requires that some type of energy be used. Energy comes from a variety of different sources, including: solar, nuclear, fossil fuel, hydro, oceanic, geothermal, biomass, wind, and electrical.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only change form, for example, hydro energy from dams is changed into electrical energy, the form into which most energy is changed by humans for our convenient use. Almost all energy on Earth, except for example, geothermal and nuclear energy, comes from our star, the Sun.

In particular, the fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas, come from transformed plant life which in turn derived its energy from the Sun in the photosynthesis process, discussed in the chapter on Plants, which essentially turns sunlight energy into fossil-fuel energy while taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting oxygen into the atmosphere.

The basic climate-change problem faced today happens because most of energy used by humans comes from burning fossil fuels. When burned, fossil fuels release the green-house gas CO2 into the atmosphere. This is the same CO2 gas that plants first started taking out of the CO2-rich, oxygen-poor, atmosphere over 300 million years ago. In addition plants have been sequestering, in the Earth, the carbon from this CO2 for million years. Once the CO2 is released to the atmosphere, it traps additional heat energy in the atmosphere, resulting in additional global warming, which in turn drives the climate change being experienced today. As this

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atmospheric CO2 increases, so does climate change. That is, CO2 is a major driving or forcing factor of climate change.

The severity of future climate change depends on how much more fossil fuel is burned. The human-made CO2-climate-forcing chain of events is scientifically clear, noncontroversial, and essentially unanimously agreed on by the major scientific organizations through out the world; the more fossil fuel burned, the more CO2 green-house gas is released into the atmosphere, so the greater the green-house effect, which increases global warming, which in turn, drives greater and more dangerous climate change.

For example, this CO2-climate forcing is so great that it overwhelms the effects of solar-climate forcing. So, for example, the likely hood that the Earth can go into a future Little Ice Age due to natural-solar-cycle climate forcing, is essentially zero.

Although the CO2-climate forcing is widely supported and accepted in the world-wide scientific community, it is not accepted, however, by the fossil-fuel industry, primarily because they have their own agenda for seeing fossil fuel use continue to grow; an agenda that is a clear vested-interest one of pure profit. This should not be at all surprising, since these entities, for the most part, are corporations who's major objective is to maximize the return-on-investment (ROI) to their shareholders.

To this end, the fossil-fuel industry will use just about any means to insure climate-change facts are misunderstood, discounted, distorted, or down played to encourage doubt and controversy in order to slow any efforts in curbing fossil fuel use or growth. They want people to go into a "wait-and-see" mode so that any effort to off set climate change is stalled. The longer the fossil-fuel

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industry can stall such efforts, the greater their profits, which are enormous, and thus the greater their ROI.

The inherit danger of this stalling approach, however, is that by the time the really bad things begin to happen, and they will if uncorrected, it maybe too late to do anything to stop it. The best Science we have now, tells us that we are in that critical period of time where it seems we may have a last chance to fix the climate change CO2 problem. We can do this, but will we?

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Chapter 10: SpaceScene™

The purpose of SpaceScene™ is to provide a convenient way to see a few beautiful images of the Universe through which our small, beautiful, and fragile world travels. ...EarthBook™

EB NASA Space Photo Gallery

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Chapter 11: Dying Planet Stages

IF the Canadian tar sands, one of the dirtest forms of oil, are developed, and there is every reason to believe they will be, CO2 emmisions will sky rocket causing a runaway green-house effect and, in which case, our little blue planet will turn into a little orange planet, all but doomed.

There are seven emotional stages most people will go through ad fully developing the fossel fuel resources. Stage 1, "Business-as-usual", the stage in which many people are in now. In this stage our focus is on our daily lives and keeping the price of gas as low as possible. Stage 2, "Denial-out-of-hand", we hear about global warming but it is disgarded out of hand as another wacky science predition or conspirspcy by scienctist to get funding, and most insist on a "drill-baby-drill" arrogent-macho knee-jerk attitude. Stage 3, "Dawning", as weather begins to get weird with places like Texas almost buring to the ground, tornados coming in batches of 100 in one day in the midwest, thoughts turn to maybe there is something to this. Stage 4, "Fear" in this stage, it occurs to many that the weather is changing and getting warmer and dryer. and what can others do about it because food prices can dramatically increase as draught becomes more common and real fear sets in that this is very real. Stage 5, "Anger", why did those oil and coal executives, tea-party right wingers, and FOX news people lead us down this path. Why did politicans why did we not heed the continual warning from the overwhelming scientific community. Stage 6, "Resignation", by now however it is too late to respond since the planet's CO2 level has gone way beyond the "point-of-no-return"

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so people give in to the inevitable and try to live out their life with as little as possible not telling their children that they effectively have no future. Stage 7, "Death", the planet continues to heat to a point where no human life will be possible as Earth becomes more and more like Venus, a hot molten hell with surface temperatures about 400F.

Based on United Nations population forecasts, the world's population is now over seven billion and growing.(The U.S. population is now over 312 million.) A large percentage of the world's population is coming out of low-carbon-use poverty into the high-use-carbon middle class. If we fail to act to reverse CO2 emmissions, the additional global-warming stress caused by the increase of this green-house gas, will have a devastating negative impact on the majority of species of this planet including our own as the consequences of global warming continue to unfold.

For example, seventy percent of the population lives in the world’s tropics and major climate changes would directly impact most of them. In one example, the National Academy of Sciences published, in their August 10, 2010, edition, a study linking illegal immigration from Mexico to global warming. Arguing that as global warming causes dryer Mexican climate, arid and unproductive farmlands result in many farmers, farm workers, and support workers migrating North. In fact, for the last decade, Northern Mexico has suffered a drought.

The sad irony is that many Republicans while not believing in global warming, are calling for the most severe illegal immigration measures todate, however, failing to take meaningful actions to stop global warming only encourages, counter-productively, illegal immigration.

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