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Feeling the heat

Published April 22, 2007


Carbon dioxide is invisible - no color, no odor, no taste. It puts out fires, puts the fizz in seltzer and is to plants what oxygen is to us. It's hard to think of it as a poison - people aren't dropping dead in the streets from breathing it. It is part of everyday air. And that's the problem. Unlike smog, it can be hard to take seriously. But as carbon dioxide emissions rise, the gas starts to trap too much sunlight and heats up the globe. When the world temperature goes up as little as 1 degree Celsius, that's bad. And that's where we've headed over the past century. If it goes up 2 degrees, that could be a catastrophe. Pretty soon the problem becomes too hot to handle: Ice caps melt, the seas rise, the climate changes, and everything accumulates to make the globe one big hotspot. The tiny Alaskan village of Shishmaref, inhabited for 400 years near the Arctic Circle, has decided to move inland as the disappearing sea ice (above) has made the seal hunt too treacherous as well as leaving the island vulnerable to lashing storms and waves from the now-open water that tear away the coastline. Its 500 residents might become the world's first global warming refugees. Here in the Tampa Bay area, where we live almost at sea level, we need to pay attention. Despite doomsayers, the end is probably not near. However, if we don't do something and soon, life as we know it will change. And there may be a tipping point when suddenly it becomes hard for the world to recover. But it turns out that there may be ways to make money by going green. Which means global warming could become a capitalist issue, with a nudge or two from government.


[Last modified April 21, 2007, 19:25:03]

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