Yesterday I had good conversation with a geographer out on a farm in the interior of Brazil. We talked about global warming and he agreed that it was a serious problem that will affect millions of people, especially in poor communities in Europe, Africa and Asia where they depend on water from melting ice from the mountain tops. If the climate warms up a lot there will be no more ice caps to provide water for drinking and farming.
Then my geographer friend told me something that I'd been thinking might be true: Millions of years ago, in order to keep a steady climate, our planet covered up materials like dead trees that were letting off hot gases. For a long time they remained buried under the surface of the earth where their gases were trapped, and slowly they turned into oil, gas and coal. Not too long ago, humans discovered that they could dig up those materials and burn them to heat their homes, and to make engines work in factories and in cars. We discovered more and more uses for them and kept digging them up faster and faster, burning them more and more.
Now we are realizing that all those carbon gases are causing our atmosphere to heat up in a way that is changing the climate. All the plants and animals, including human beings, that had gotten used to the planet the way it was, now have to find new ways to exist or they will become extinct. It's not too late to turn things around and keep it from getting too bad. This was the geographer's lesson.
I think that human beings are very intelligent and creative, and it was amazing that we discovered how to use coal, oil and gas. But now we have to think again about what we're doing. We can just go on using those carbon materials and heating up the atmosphere, or we can cut back on using them, and find other ways to take care of our needs.