On the proper way to limit overpopulation

Posted February 22nd, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

There are people who say that there is no overpopulation, and there are people who say that there is overpopulation but we shouldn’t do anything about it. I say that there is overpopulation and we should do something about it, but this article of mine is not about convincing people of this approach. I search for the answer to this question instead: how to limit population size in the proper way if we want to? I share my best current thoughts about the topic, allowing you to evaluate and rethink them.

Overpopulation was not a big problem in the ancient times, because wars, famine and diseases kept population size in its natural limits. The rise of civilizations and technology seems to have changed this situation, because we can feed many of the hungry in Africa, and we can cure most of the diseases, and we do it, because we are humane. Even wars cannot control population growth properly now, because we should not risk a nuclear war. If these three things – war, famine and disease – are not available to control population size, what other options do we have?

Some thinkers may come up with the advice „Go back to nature”, which would mean we should force mankind back to a state similar to the one which was prior to civilization. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that most of us don’t want to lose the advantages of civilization, for example comfort, security, power and information. The second problem is that the „Go back to nature” principle cannot be brought into effect in practice. At least it cannot be brought into practice in our times.

We can see one thing in common in war, famine and disease: all control overpopulation by increasing the number of deaths. As we don’t want this, we have only two options: the first is to find another planets to live, the other is to limit the number of births. As finding another planets to live seems to be a hard-to-believe option, we have to think on the possibility about limiting the number of births. After a so long introduction we can continue with the main thoughts of my writing.

The question is how we could limit the number of births in a sustainable, liberal and ethical manner. If some people may voluntarily choose not to have children, or to have less children, because of environmental thinking, then it is probable that in evolutionary time those would proliferate who don’t care for the environment as much and cannot control their instincts. Thus this solution wouldn’t be sustainable in evolutionary time, and it wouldn’t be just either. We have to compete for the rights of reproduction, because this is the law of natural selection.

There are some laws which control the way how we compete for reproduction, for example the law which says „Do not kill” or the one which says „Do not steal”. Other laws may be created to limit birth rates, like the one-child-policy in China. I can see two problems with the one-child-policy: firstly, it’s not liberal, and secondly, it doesn’t seem to be sustainable in evolutionary time, because those would proliferate who beget triplets. The conclusion from this is that birth control laws should work as evolution works.

We have come to the conclusion which we may call the principle of birth control: The more able, the more useful and the more fit for life should be encouraged to reproduce, and the less able, the less useful and the less fit for life should not reproduce or should have only one child. Implementations of this principle may differ in time and place, whether is should be measured by money or something else, how liberal it should be, whether punishment is necessary or is reward enough for the children of the compliers, and whether or not those may be encouraged to have a sexual relationship who should not beget children. After all, the principle remains the same, unless we can go to another planets to live. This principle would make the lives of the children better, because they would get the wealth they need. This principle would also help to reduce the monetary differences between people, because the money which would be inherited would be distributed between the children.

Until now, I couldn’t find a better solution than this, so I encourage people to start thinking about how to implement it.

Written by Arpad Fekete, a member of TheEnvironmentSite.org

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/4538714228

Stratospheric Cooling and Tropospheric Warming

Posted December 14th, 2010 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have resulted in the warming of the troposphere and cooling of the stratosphere which is caused by two mechanisms. One mechanism involves the conversion of translational energy of motion or translational kinetic energy (KE) into Infrared radiation (IR) and the other method involves the absorption of IR energy by CO2 in the troposphere such that it is no longer available to the stratosphere. The former dominates and will be discussed first. For simplicity, both methods will be explained by considering a model of a fictitious planet with an atmosphere consisting of CO2 and an inert gas such as nitrogen (N2) at pressures equivalent to those on earth. This atmosphere will have a troposphere and a stratosphere with the tropopause at 10 km. The initial concentration of CO2 will be 100 parts per million (ppm) and will be increased to 1000 ppm. These parameters were chosen in order to generate graphs which enable the reader to easily understand the mechanisms discussed herein. Furthermore, in keeping with the concept of simplicity, the heating of the earth and atmosphere due to solar insolation will not be discussed. A short digression into the nature of radiation and its interaction with CO2 in the gaseous state follows.

Temperature is a measure of the energy content of matter and is indicated by the translational KE of the particles. A gas of fast particles is at a higher temperature than one of slow particles. Energy also causes CO2 molecules to vibrate but although this vibration is related to the energy content of CO2, it is not related to the temperature of the gaseous mixture. Molecules undergoing this vibration are in an excited state.

IR radiation contains energy and in the absence of matter, this radiation will continue to travel indefinitely. In this situation, there is no temperature because there is no matter.

The energy content of IR radiation can be indicated by its IR spectrum which is a graph of power density as a function of frequency. Climatologists use wavenumbers instead of frequencies for convenience and a wavenumber is defined as the number of cycles per centimeter. Figure 1 is such a graph where the x axis indicates the wavenumber and the y axis indicates the power per square meter per wavenumber. The area under the curve represents the total power per square meter in the radiation.

http://web.archive.org/web/20110722050916im_/http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/3_BlackBody.gif

Figure 1. IR Spectrum – No Atmosphere

The interaction of IR radiation with CO2 is a two way street in that IR radiation can interact with unexcited CO2 molecules and cause them to vibrate and become excited and excited CO2 molecules can become unexcited by releasing IR radiation.

Consider now the atmosphere of our fictitious model. N2 and CO2 molecules are in motion and the average speed of these molecules is related to the temperature of the stratosphere. Now imagine that CO2 molecules are injected into the atmosphere causing the concentration of CO2 to increase. These molecules will then collide with other molecules of either N2 or CO2 and some of the KE of these particles will be transferred to the CO2 resulting in excited CO2 molecules and a lowered stratospheric temperature. All entities, including atoms and molecules, prefer the unexcited state to the excite state. Therefore, these excited CO2 molecules will emit IR radiation which, in the rarefied stratosphere, will simply be radiated out of the stratosphere. The net result is a lower stratospheric temperature. This does not happen in the troposphere because, due to higher pressures and shorter distances between particles, any emitted radiation gets absorbed by another nearby CO2 molecule.

In order to discuss the second and less dominant mechanism, consider Figure 1 which shows the IR spectrum from a planet with no atmosphere and Figures 2 which shows the IR spectrums from the same planet with CO2 levels of 100 ppm and 1000 ppm respectively. These graphs were generated from a model simulator at the website of Dr. David Archer, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago and edited to contain only the curves of interest to this discussion. As previously stated, these parameters were chosen in order to generate graphs which enable the reader to easily understand the mechanism discussed herein.

The curves of Figures 2 approximately follow the intensity curve of Figure 1 except for the missing band of energy centered at 667 cm-1. This band is called the absorption band and is so named because it represents the IR energy that is absorbed by CO2. IR radiation of all other wavenumbers do not react with CO2 and thus the IR intensity at these wavenumbers is the same as that of Figure 1. These wavenumbers represent the atmospheric window which is so named because the IR energy radiates through the atmosphere unaffected by the CO2.

Figure 2. CO2 IR Spectrum – 100/1000 ppm

A comparison of the curves in Figure 2 shows that the absorption band at 1000 ppm is wider than that at 100 ppm because more energy has been absorbed from the IR radiation by the troposphere at a CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm than at a concentration of 100 ppm. The energy that remains in the absorption band after the IR radiation has traveled through the troposphere is the only energy that is available to interact with the CO2 of the stratosphere. At a CO2 level of 100 ppm there is more energy available for this than at a level of 1000 ppm. Therefore, the stratosphere is cooler because of the higher level of CO2 in the troposphere. Additionally, the troposphere has warmed because it has absorbed the energy that is no longer available to the stratosphere.

In concluding, this paper has explained the mechanisms which cause the troposphere to warm and the stratosphere to cool when the atmospheric levels of CO2 increase. The dominant mechanism involves the conversion of the energy of motion of the particles in the atmosphere to IR radiation which escapes to space and the second method involves the absorption of IR energy by CO2 in the troposphere such that it is no longer available to the stratosphere. Both methods act to reduce the temperature of the stratosphere.

*It is recognized that a fictitious planet as described herein is a physical impossibility. The simplicity of this model serves to explain a concept that would otherwise be more difficult using a more complex and realistic model.

NOTE: This is the latest version of this article: http://www.theenvironmentsite.org/forum/blogs/bob-guercio/364-stratospheric-cooling-tropospheric-warming.html
Copyright 2010 – Robert J. Guercio

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