Checking the health status of our planet

Climate Land Leader Dick Sloan wrote the following piece, which was published in the Cedar Rapids, IA Gazette on October 7, 2023.

Climate Land Leader Dick Sloan farms in Rowley, IA

I visited my doctor recently, as I do every year. We take the time to review my metabolic profile to confirm my health status. A simple blood test reveals that my CO2 levels tend to run 3 percent above the upper limit of normal.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been monitoring our planet’s “metabolic profile” since 1959, at least the CO2 component of our atmosphere. I know we all think of the earth as so enormous. We think nothing of traveling 5 miles. Think of traveling 5 miles up — not enough air to breathe. We forget what a narrow band of life we live in. And all that oil and coal pulled out of the earth, burned for energy, and released into our air as CO2 is trapped right here with us.

For more than 800,000 years, earth’s CO2 level varied slowly up and down between 180-280 ppm with one spike to 300 ppm about 330,000 years ago. A decade ago, we passed 400 ppm, a level not seen since 2 million to 4 million years ago, long before people walked this planet. The CO2 level in our atmosphere in 2021 was 416.5 ppm. That is 38 percent above the highest levels reached in all the time we and all life as we know it has adapted to all the little niches of a complex planetary life together.

While my doctor and I can remain unconcerned with slightly elevated CO2 in my blood, none of us should remain unconcerned with the dramatic changes we humans have already had on our planet. The systems that have long controlled the temperature of our planet depend on those systems’ ability to control atmospheric CO2 levels. We are a short circuit in the planetary system pushing CO2 to levels not seen on earth in 14 million years. But the systems are still in place and we are beginning to see how our planet will respond. Suffice to say, the future will not be like the past.

How can we not be alarmed? How can we think that controlling other humans through our economies is more important than solving this most alarming problem? Are our minds so small that we can only fight for dominance when we are truly all in this together?

We CAN do the right things if we are honest and open and forthright in our actions. I call on all our representatives to reject “business as usual” and work to stop the meteoric rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.