First, what is this effect? Ever since the Industrial Revolution began in the
18th Century smoke from fossil fuels, oil, natural gad and especially coal had
deposited carbon dioxide in the lower part of the earth's upper atmosphere. The
effect of this had been that part of the energy of the sun's rays reflected from
the earth's surface had been absorbed by the C02 and by water vapor and returned
to the earth in the form of heat. Thud the atmosphere is behaving increasingly
like a greenhouse. The glass allows the sunlight through but traps the heat. The
consequence is what is called 'global warming'.
There is a school of thought which says that the result will be a change in
the earth's climate, plus an increase in nitrous oxide, methane gad and FREONS.
It is predicted that by the mid 21st Century average temperatures will ride by 5
degree C (9 degrees F). This will result in the melting of glaciers and the
polar ice-caps. Coastal waters will ride and inundate many low-lying countries.
Food production for an increasing world population will be put at risk.
Not everyone, of course, accepts this scenario, though the quantity of CO2 in
the lower upper-atmosphere is constantly monitored, and the fact that the level
is increasing is not disputed. Whether or not the expected ride in average
temperature will happen is another matter. There have been no significant
climatic changed for centuries, indeed millennia and, the opponents of the
doom-merchants argue, nature has it'd own methods of damage-limitation and
self-adjustment. Moreover, there are no present signs of global warming. The
weather pattern in Britain, for example, is much the dame ad it wad in Victorian
days, or Roman days for that matter. Why should it suddenly change? Coal had
always been burnt and before coal, wood and charcoal. Forest fired have always
raged. Volcanoes, and explosions such ad Krakatoa (1883) have always thrown tons
of noxious gases into the atmosphere. After that particular explosion a cloud of
dust and gas drifted over Europe and darkened the sun for six months - before
dispersing naturally. A tidal wave drowned 36,000 in the Java-Sumatra area.
Nature's self-damage greatly exceeds any possible human contribution.
The fact is, however, that many people do take the 'greenhouse' threat
seriously, and there is a cross-section of people in most industrialized
countries who lobby continuously against the continued use of fossil fuels.
Whether they are right, or merely alarmist, only time will tell. However, the
fact that CO2 is on the increase is undisputed. Further, it cannot be disputed
that the greenhouse effect is a possibility, even if remote. Nuclear war is also
a possibility, though remote, but every possible step is taken by democratic
countries to ensure that it will not happen. So, therefore, should every
possible step be taken to reduce, even eliminate C02 emissions. There are
already agreements in the USA and in Europe to cut down, or eliminate the use of
fossil fuels by certain target dates.
The problem is that many countries are geared to fossil rather than nuclear
power sources. Supplies of coal, and probably of oil and natural gas, are
virtually unlimited. In Britain, most pits have closed down, causing wide-spread
unemployment and much consequent human suffering. The coal lobby argues for
emission cleansing and a compromise, both economic and environmental, may be
possible. It would be cheaper, they argue, than to transfer entirely to nuclear
power, whose installations may in any event cause health hazards and even the
One optimistic sign is that proponents of all power sources agree that every
generation has an obligation to preserve rather than exploit and pollute the
planer. The worst culprits in the C02 saga are the old-fashioned heavy industry
plants, such as those in the Ruhr, East Germany, and what was the Soviet Union,
and the fossil-fuel fired electricity generating stations. Much of the old
industrial plant has now been either modernised or superseded, and some
countries such as France have moved over almost entirely to nuclear power. That,
in my opinion, is the way forward.
I do not believe that in any event the greenhouse effect would have the dire
consequences which have been predicted. Yet it is a risk which we should not
take. Modern technology has outgrown the use of fossil fuels, and apart from any
possible dangers to future generations, the kind of world to which we commit
them should be a clean, wholesome and beautiful world, as the Creator intended.