what do cars have to do with it? - 75% of global warming is attributed to the burning of fossil fules (coal and oil). This comes from industrial/power plants and gasoline/diesel fueled vehicles. Reducing the amount we drive would have a major impact on this problem (Needs citation).
Burning fossil fuels releases thousands of tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2 hangs around in the upper atmosphere where it traps heat from the sun, like a greenhouse, making the whole planet heat up. The thicker the blanket of CO2, the warmer we get.
Cars make a lot of CO2 - One gallon of gasoline turns into 20 pounds of CO2 when burned in your car. Seems impossible, right? The gasoline itself only weights 6.3 pounds. But when gasoline burns, the carbon and hydrogen separate. Each carbon atom combines with two oxygen atoms from the atmosphere to form a whole lot of carbon dioxide (CO2).
What's the big deal? - An increase in the average temperature by one or two degrees sounds pretty nice to me, but unfortunately it is already causing problems, and there are a lot more in store. Here's a very quick list:
- Food crops may die because plants are sensitive to temperature
- Sea Level is rising, millions of coastal homes will be flooded
- Disease-carrying mosquitoes are surviving in places they shouldn't
- Global ocean currents are changing and killing fish
- Glaciers are melting, Polar Bears have no plcae to hunt, they are dying
- Farm and forest land are turning to desert
- Extreme weather events, hurricanes and storms are likely to increase
Some Good News - Commuting by bike even once or twice per week can have a dramatic positive effect. Consider that we Americans are 300 million strong. Multiply everything you do (good or bad) times 300 million. Biking one day a week for the whole nation could effect a 20% reduction of greenhouse gases from autos. Nice. That's oversimplified, of course, but it's the right idea.
Overview - The theory of Peak Oil describes the steady increase of world oil production (until it reaches a peak), and the eventual decline due to reserves being used up. When will we reach the peak? Optimistic estimates say it is coming by 2020. Pessimistics estimates say we are already past the peak. Either way, it's pretty clear that oil is a finite resource and it won't last forever.
So what? - The world economy is fueled by oil. Every product we buy and sell is shipped in an oil-burning vehicle. Plastics are made out of the stuff. When oil starts to become scarce, prices will go up - dramatically. If we don't have an infrastructure that allows for other means of transportation, there will be big, big trouble. What will all those suburbanites do, stranded miles from anythhing? We need to start transitioning into a post-oil economy now, while we can do it on our own terms, not as a despeate reaction to a global energy/economy catastrophy.
More Info - (Need to put some stats and info here - coming soon!)
Bikes & the law
Most bicycle laws vary by city or county, and sometimes they change. Look into your local laws to be sure. Here are some general concepts:
Helmets - In many cities helmets are required when riding on roads. Regardless, wear one. You're setting an example for every kid that sees you.
Riding on Sidewalks - In Seattle it is legal (in San Francisco it is not), in many other cities it is not legal, and you can be ticketed. Either way, if you must ride on the sidewalk, do so slowly, and/or use good judgment when riding in busy areas with pedestrians. We want them to support us, not fear us.
Right of Way - In most places bicycles are subject to the same right-of-way rules as cars. Just because you're saving their planet, doesn't mean they have to let you go first. If you are holding up traffic, you are a "slow vehicle" just like a car, and need to get out of the way. Same roads. Same rules. Same rights.
Stop Signs/Lights - Many of us stop at red lights, and then proceed if it's clear, even if the light is still red. This is not legal, and police can ticket you for it. Also, this is one of the first issues listed by drivers when complaining about cyclists. Maybe they are just jealous, but if you want to gain community support for bike facilities, then you might consider waiting at red lights, just to show them that you don't think you're above the law.
More Info - (More coming soon!)
Coming soon: The bright side, how much GOOD we could do if we bike more, stats on short trips, barrels of oil, carbon, etc.