To understand climate change, also referred to as anthropogenic (man made), you must first understand how biodiversity works within the various ecosystems of this biosphere called earth. Earth was originally made up of cosmic dust particles from exploding stars that collided and were compressed by gravity from the sun. These dust particles were comprised of radioactive heavy elements like uranium, thorium, potassium, as well as many other elements found in the periodic tables you learned about in your High School science class. Some of those known elements, like plutonium, have already decayed into extinction as part of the earth’s evolution.
The world is in a constant state of transmutation from one state to another and sometimes to complete extinction. In biology, that transformation would be from one species into another and the one that adapts will flourish while the other will decay away. Another way to express this is through evolution or natural selection. In physics, that process would be when the conversion of an atom of one element to an atom of another element. In either case, it is the heat that is generated that can be transferred to power mankind’s energy needs. Mankind just needs to learn how to tap into it safely and cleanly. We live in an ever changing biosphere and there needs to be a balance to sustain life.
Deforestation is one example of an imbalance. Deforestation, along the tropical latitudes, is occurring for the purpose of utilizing the land for food production. It has had the most negative effect on the biosphere with an increase in atmospheric CO2. This vegetation ring around the world provides most of the natural photosynthesis process that takes in the CO2 and produces oxygen, one of the essential elements of life.
Irrigation is another example of overuse and imbalance. Farming has been extended beyond the natural ecosystems through the use of diverting water from the natural aquifers, rivers and lakes in many parts of the world. Some of these fresh water resources are not rechargeable and once the water is depleted it will become extinct as well as most of the plant and animal life in the surrounding ecosystems. Water is also another essential element of life.
In fact, water is the essence of life and both fresh water and saline water have their own unique water ecosystems. Earth is considered a water planet with 97% saline water and 3% fresh water and yet; only 1% available for potable (drinkable) water utilization. Early populations grew up around fresh water sources, but as the populations saturate one ecosystem, new ecosystems were created with the use of diverted fresh water, causing those original ecosystems to be compromised. There needs to be a balance and as the population keeps increasing, means that fresh water has to come from the other water source, saline water, in the oceans and seas through desalination. This process which provides predictable fresh water will require a tremendous amount of energy. That energy can come from nuclear, fossil or renewable sources. I will explain the different energy sources in my next column and how they apply to the future of our biosphere.