The World's Greatest Environmental Challenge
AUTHOR: Volk, Tyler
PUBLISHER: MIT Press
Also available at Amazon.com
The most colossal environmental disturbance in human history is under way.Ever-rising levels of the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) are altering the cycles ofmatter and life and interfering with the Earth's natural cooling process. Melting Arctic ice andmountain glaciers are just the first relatively mild symptoms of what will result from thisdisruption of the planetary energy balance. In CO2 Rising, scientist Tyler Volk explains the processat the heart of global warming and climate change: the global carbon cycle. Vividly and concisely,Volk describes what happens when CO2 is released by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, andnatural gas), letting loose carbon atoms once trapped deep underground into the interwoven web ofair, water, and soil. To demonstrate how the carbon cycle works, Volk traces the paths that carbonatoms take during their global circuits. Showing us the carbon cycle from a carbon atom's viewpoint,he follows one carbon atom into a leaf of barley and then into an alcohol molecule in a glass ofbeer, through the human bloodstream, and then back into the air. He also compares the fluxes ofcarbon brought into the biosphere naturally against those created by the combustion of fossil fuelsand explains why the latter are responsible for rising temperatures. Knowledge about the globalcarbon cycle and the huge disturbances that human activity produces in it will equip us to considerthe hard questions that Volk raises in the second half of CO2 Rising: projections of future levelsof CO2; which energy systems and processes (solar, wind, nuclear, carbon sequestration?) will powercivilization in the future; the relationships among the wealth of nations, energy use, and CO2emissions; and global equity in per capita emissions. Answering these questions will indeed be ourgreatest environmental challenge.
PUBLICATION DATE: 8/1/2008