Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CancunCocoon: Episode#10

Sunlight has struck the Earth for billions of years and will do for billions more. As long as 650 million years ago, living organisms that nurtured from the sun's light later decomposed and piled up as the Earth was still forming as we know it today, including more evolved life forms.

In a way, burning today a combustible material that lived on the surface millions of years ago is the equivalent of burning sunlight that hit the planet that long ago. In other words, we are generating carbon that should be buried underground in order to preserve the planet's long-achieved climactic balance.

Today, our civilization has developed technologies that allow us to extract those very ancient fossils that have been compressed under a lot of pressure over a long, long time, and we have managed to convert them into energy. Unfortunately, over a century of extraction of fossil fuels has not made us more efficient transforming that long-gone decay. In fact, an important amount of energy is invested or lost in the process of extracting, transporting, refining, and burning these fuels.

Seventeen billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in 2010 alone will have an important impact in the temperature exchange between the heat that reaches the Earth and the heat that leaves to outer space because of the Greenhouse effect. Gases that accumulate in the atmosphere trap some of the sun rays that are reflected from the Earth's surface (albedo effect). This prevents them from leaving back into space, and instead create an amount of heat that is contained when it should be released.

There are plenty ways of sinking more carbon back from the air. Growing vegetation is perhaps the most important one. Forests, vegetation in general, plankton in the oceans, and agricultural products are predominantly composed of carbon. Growing more trees additionally helps other living organisms have access to oxygen in the air, as they breathe carbon dioxide in, and breathe oxygen out. I have known this since fourth grade elementary school. I am sure you have, too! :)

No comments: