Understand Science and Believe in Action

It happens all the time. The weather will get chilly for a day or two, as it did this summer in Rhode Island, where I live, and we’ll be wrapped in sweaters, grumbling companionably while we’re waiting in the cashier’s line at the supermarket. You can count on someone to say it: “It’s freezing! I’m pulling out the fleece! In the middle of summer! Global warming… I don’t believe in it.”

Even though I am an inveterate eavesdropper, I am not a person who jumps into strangers’ conversations. But I kept worrying over the remark, until I finally figured out what was bothering me. It wasn’t just the wrongheaded reaction to a day or two of cold weather in a hot season. It was that little, consequential word: believe. “I don’t believe in global warming.”

What does it mean about the way we live now that so many people are using the language of faith (and our beloved fairy tales) to address the problems of science? I figured the best person to ask was a scientist.

“The answer to that is complex,” says Steven Hamburg, who recently joined EDF as Chief Scientist. “But it boils down to one big issue. Society cannot handle uncertainty. And science is about uncertainty. We no longer understand how science works, how the scientific process moves. People want black and white. True or false. Climate science is too complex for that kind of binary thinking. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know that we are headed for catastrophe.”

“If you have been a gardener for even a few years, you’ve already seen plenty of evidence that things are changing.”

I had gone to see Hamburg because I wanted to know how to answer people who said they just didn’t “buy it.” (Another phrase that is an indicator of our times: the retailing of theories, as if we can simply decide to leave climate change on the shelf, refuse to take it home.) The sort of thing I overheard is being played out this fall across the country in fierce debate—some of it based on deliberate, cynical misinformation—as the Senate prepares to vote on a climate bill. I wanted to be able to point to concrete examples of how climate change is already transforming our communities.

If you have been a gardener for even a few years, you’ve already seen plenty of evidence that things are changing. There was a time, not so long ago, when I had to dig up most tender perennials at the end of the summer, and store them in the garage for the winter, to coax them back to life the following spring. That is no longer always necessary. In fact, the hardiness zones—regional maps by which gardeners evaluate what can live in the ground through the winter—have been redrawn to reflect the northward march of plants into areas that were once inhospitable.

This sounds great, on the face of it. I, for one, will be delighted to have camellias blooming in Rhode Island. Until, that is, I think about the flip side: the exotic pests able to winter over as well, even finding time for extra egg-laying in longer hot seasons. Here’s what else is in my backyard: more poison ivy, which thrives on the higher concentrations of CO2 in the air. And something worse is twining its way north, the dreaded kudzu, a vine hanging in curtains along highways all over the south, smothering trees and shrubs. Kudzu is now considered invasive as far north as Connecticut.

Overwhelming messes can leave us feeling helpless to effect change. We try to do our parts as individuals, in the choices we make about who we vote for and what we buy. But such personal actions can feel as futile as trying to empty the ocean with teaspoons. And they are—if all we do is worry about our own backyards. “I struggle with this in my own life,” says Hamburg. “Local solutions alone will not work, though they are important. If the United States alone acts on climate change, it is not sufficient; but if America doesn’t act, there’ll be no global solution. And that is what is needed.”

There is a word for the willingness to step forward and champion a just cause, regardless of what other countries are doing: Leadership. This fall Americans have an unprecedented chance to demand that our Senators support policies to slow global warming. This is where faith does come in; we have to believe that we can alter our perilous course.

Each of us will have—or has had—a moment of epiphany about climate change, a moment of understanding the urgency of the problem. That moment comes in the garden, or on the banks of a once vibrant, trout-filled river that is now still or in depths of a forest that no longer echoes with the croaking of frogs. It comes because the droughts are more prolonged, year after year, or the storms more severe. Or because your grandfather tells you that what is now the low tide mark on your beach was, in his youth, the line of the highest tides—as is happening where I live. Oceans have been rising, as have temperatures, and faster than expected. It does not require a leap of faith to “believe” this; it is a fact.

“Think about standing in the middle of a busy street, trying to cross,” says Hamburg. “Traffic is speeding past from both directions. The probability that you’ll fail to get across is high. That is what’s going to happen with climate change. We will be surrounded by disasters. The longer we wait, the fewer options we will have.”

I remember how carefully I taught my little boys, as we walked to school, about stop signs and traffic lights. I taught them to look both ways, to make sure their path was clear, before stepping off the curb. Letting go of their hands and watching them cross to safety was one of the hardest things I ever did. My own call to action is embedded in the memory of holding those tiny, trusting hands. Who in their right mind believes in making the world a more dangerous place for our children?

What You Can Do

Please take a moment to send an email to your members of Congress supporting strong climate and energy action.

30 Responses

Pingback from Personal Nature » The Ticking Clock
October 5th, 2009 at 10:30 am

[…] A bonus feature from my October column “Understand Science and Believe in Action“ […]

Comment from David Berg
October 5th, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Institutional rejection of climate change – or the need to take preventive and remedial action for the effects of climate change – comes from those whose interests are threatened by the loss of immediate, personal, economic gain. “Doing something about climate change will affect the economy; its unaffordable,” they cry. It’s too easy for most people to accept that answer, particularly in difficult economic times, than to think that six generations of unfettered industrial pollution got us to this point and one more generation without taking action will push us beyond the threshold of being able to respond to the increasing traffic of natural disasters. (I like your analogy of trying to cross a highway of increasing traffic.)

To succeed in implementing climate change legislation, we must find a way to overcome the cry of institutional economic disaster by doing so.

Comment from Jeanne Santangelo
October 5th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

It’s a real problem that our children don’t know what is missing from the only world that they know. Thank you for articulating the discomfort that I’ve been feeling regarding the climate change debate. As a gardener myself, I’ve tracked the noticeable change in season length and grown concerned about the rapidity of change and how it will affect our native flora and fauna, can they adapt to change or relocate to survive? Our grandchildren’s world will look very different than ours. Congress seems to be dithering while our planet burns…What we need is hope and that could be partly provided by their leadership. Does anyone have the vision to take action now?

Comment from Rick Row
October 5th, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Have you caught yourself in saying “I believe in climate change (global warming)”? Please join me in never saying that again. Why? Surely doing so empowers others equally to say “I don’t believe in global warming.” As Dominque Browning’s excellent article implies, the language of faith is not relevant to global warming. Yet, recently, when trying to explain the stubbornly high level of public skepticism, Vicky Pope, head of climate change at the U.K. Met Office, said ‘I don’t understand the psychology here. It should be about the evidence, but it’s actually about the beliefs.’ So, next time you’re asked if you “believe” in global warming, respond along the lines that anyone’s beliefs on the matter are irrelevant. Say you understand that human-induced global warming due to our emissions of greenhouse gases is almost certainly a fact based on the preponderance of scientific evidence as accepted by the great majority of climate scientists. Add that very likely it will soon cause catastrophic outcomes for humans and other life if unchecked.

Comment from sllawrence
October 5th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

David Berg identifies the cork in the bottle–industry lobbyists who fear their bottom line will be adversely affected. My request of industry is to please describe for us what their profits will look like in a post-environmental world.

Ms. Browning so eloquently appeals for real leadership. Where is it going to come from if the majority of Congress is being bought by Big Business?

Thank you, Ms. Browning. I so look forward to your first Monday columns for EDF. You’re the first thing I read in House and Garden magazine. I consistently feel as if I’ve had a conversation with a good friend and fellow gardener.

Comment from Brianne
October 5th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Thank you for the insightful metaphors that can be used when asked about global warming. Trying to simply answer someone who questions you can be difficult, especially when caught off guard. We are actually in a cold spell as well, at 71 degrees in Southern California. Everyone I know is beaming and saying, “Yay, summer heat is finally over.” It’s been too noticeable when the summer heat is getting hotter, the summer is lasting longer and winter lasts 4 days! I don’t understand when people don’t think global warming is happening.

I look forward to reading your column next month.

Comment from Lance J Konover
October 5th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

It is an alliance between ignorance/stupidity and greed.
Many college graduates, let alone high school dropouts, are easily duped by global warming liars/deniers because they do not know the most basic of science and math, because it has been found to difficult to award people their diploma if there is ANY science and math requirement at all. So the anti global warming propagandists can say the most outrageous things, and there is no outcry – they are just believed if they are on TV or radio.
Even many of those who do believe in global warming have never participated in any way to support it, such as writing to their Congressman or Senator. They do not believe that they can have any effect, or do not know how.
Ignorance, lying, and greed have reached critical mass in the USA, and corruption is equal to ancient Rome.
I do hope that despite this the USA will take action.
We need the intervention of a Higher Power!

Comment from Steve Cunningham
October 5th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I will ‘believe’ in human-induced global warming when someone shows me some real ‘evidence’. Since there isn’t any I will continue to be a skeptic. The entire scientific ‘consensus’ is based solely on computer models (see the IPCC FAR) and computer model outputs is not scientific evidence regardless of how many scientists say it is.

Average global temperature has been going up since the mid 70’s, but the years since 2002 has shown a decline. Not exactly runaway global warming as the models predicted.

This hype also ignores the Little Ice Age, when temperatures were lower than they are now, and the Medieval Warm Period just prior to that when temperatures were much warmer than they are now, higher even than the doomsday scenario predictions of said computer models.

So you can feel bad all you want, but any laws to curb a nonexistent pending disaster will only drag us sane people down to your personal hell.

Comment from sunnyfleurs
October 5th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Dear Ms. Browning,
For many moons, we have enjoyed fruits of your pencil!

Earth joins Ms. Rachel Carson! to sing a grand welcome to this column….and to the prescience of EDF!

Hope is everGreen!

Comment from Elaine Martin Petrowski
October 5th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Bravo — well said.
Here in my northern New Jersey garden I’d never seen poison ivy until three years ago. Now I catch it popping up all over my property and the church garden I tend. And the warmer milder winters mean the chipmunk population around here is burgeoning. The tumbled-down stone walls, undermined by their digging, prove that.

Comment from Dirk Faegre
October 5th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

I join with others on the reading of Ms. Browning’s column. But I don’t see readers picking up on the clear clue within it as she quotes EDF Chief Scientist,Stephen Hamburg, who said: “Society cannot handle uncertainty. And science is about uncertainty. People want black and white. Climate science is too complex for that kind of binary thinking. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know that we are headed for catastrophe.”
Most people really *do* need answers and if they can’t get them from someone else, they’ll make ’em up. It’s just too uncomfortable not to. With their answer, they can sleep nights.
The funny thing is … there *are* answers. Thousands of them … all around us and everywhere. At least ‘answers’ that show that global warming is happening … and fast. Very fast. I think that when people discount these, they simply can’t deal with the truth. It’s too painful. It’s much easier to deny the truths shown and live more peaceably (for now) with their heads down. We see this everywhere in society (alcoholism is a fine example). To some degree I can’t blame them. But if they care about their kids and their kid’s kids, they they owe it to them to lift their eyes and face the realities that are “the elephant in the room.” It’s hard and it’s not fun, but it’s the right thing to do.
I ask people who deny it’s happening, how will they apologize to my granddaughter (and theirs) when later on she asks them in astonishment: “What in the world *were* you thinking?!! All those thousands of indicators, every single media outlet giving you the details, scientists everywhere spelling it out for you … and you did *what*? Nothing?!! Are you crazy?”
What are *you* going to answer? I’m going to apologize like Kurt Vonnegut did: “To future generations. We apologize: We were roaring drunk on money.” … and then go on to explain how hard I tried to get us to change direction. It’s not worth much … but I can sleep nights, for now.

Comment from Lowell D. Corbin
October 5th, 2009 at 6:16 pm

I’m so glad to have been directed to your column, Ms. Browning, by EDF.

Another indicator of global warming is the northern migration of birds in the spring — arriving here in northern Michigan two weeks earlier than normal over the past few years.

Looking forward to your monthly column.

Comment from cato
October 5th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Anthropogenic global warming is a hoax. 425,000 years of CO2 data from glacial cores shows us that warming and cooling on Planet Earth are perfectly natural and there is nothing going on now that has not happened in the past. Unfortunately, the Earth is in a cold period far more often than it enjoys a warm period. Ms. Browning’s assertion that “grandpa’s highest tide is the lowest tide today” is utterly preposterous. There is no evidence of this whatsoever! Mean sea level has risen less than 2 centimeters in the past century. There are islands in the South Pacific that have suffered increasing sea levels. However, that is because they are piggybacked on a plate that is undergoing subduction and is being sucked back under the ocean due to the natural forces of plate tectonics in the “ring of fire” of the Pacific Ocean. Also, I AM a gardener and I have seen no significant differences in seasonality in 40 years of gardening. Ms. Browning is a “useful idiot” of the statists who would like the government to own, operate and control everything.

Comment from cato
October 5th, 2009 at 9:16 pm

According to George Orwell “In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” One component of the universal deceit of this time is anthropogenic global warming. It is simply NOT taking place. I have no doubt that since I am telling the truth here, Citizen Soros will likely have my comments stricken since I am not towing the mark of “newspeak.” Since THE TRUTH is considered offensive to George Soros, I am certain that my comments will be deleted!

Comment from jjessee
October 5th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

This issue surrounds me. Most of my family is ultra conservative and does not “believe in” climate change. As we know, we can find anything to back any opinion on the internet. And it takes courage to go against your ideology, especially if it is hard-wired into you from an early age, even if you see evidence that you are wrong. That’s what’s holding a lot of people back: their ideology. It’s so important to them to be maintain certain beliefs, believing in global warming doesn’t fit. For someone to be so absolutely sure global warming is NOT taking place, doesn’t that prove they are NOT open-minded? That’s not objective. And it hurts my heart to say so, but in 5-10 years climate change will be so apparent that even the hard core hold-outs will have a hard time denying it.

Comment from jpouchet
October 5th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Very interesting “beliefs” so many hold dear despite the constant lack of hard, objective science or data. If we are to accept the climate change arguments (global warming by the way is no longer politically correct) then with the year 2010 around the corner we should be 1/10th of the way along the curve to 2010. Where then is the .6 F increase in average global temperatures? Where is the 2 to 3 foot rise in ocean levels? They haven’t manifested themselves as of yet.

Why? Because the models use what are known as hockey-stick curves with accelerated conditions in the out years. Much like how our politicians make promises that all sorts of programs become revenue neutral or tax-free in the out years. Guess what folks – these things never happen. Not in the business world, certainly not in politics, and they aren’t happening in the natural world either.

Now this is no carte blanche for the industrial or emerging nations to run wild building coal-fired power plants, strip mining rare-earth metals for hybrid vehicles (another environmental nightmare worse than the problem they purportedly solve), clear-cutting forests, and burning downfall (Indonesia, hello third-largest CO2 emitter in the world with slash and burn). We need to continue to take steps to treat the environment responsibly. To that end we need global standards that hold all nations to a level playing field. We need to take the best regulations and ideas from the EPA, EU, and others and create a UN set of standards with a legal body responsible for practical code enforcement first along economic lines.

We are at least 20 years away from having a realistic opportunity to live on another world. Perhaps 200 to 500 years away from large-scale civilization on other worlds. So we better learn to mutually respect the one world we have to depend upon currently to see mankind survive.

Comment from Claire
October 5th, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Whoopee! I’m so glad Dominique is lending her amazing voice to EDF. When she edited H&G, it was the only magazine that had any awareness of the real world. Can’t wait to hear what she has to say.

Comment from vicente
October 5th, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Quickly, what’s the single most effective thing one can do to neutralize global warming? According to the United Nations, it’s to implement a vegan diet.(CoolYourDiet.com) Yup, meat production causes more greenhouse gases than industry and automobiles together. But wait, that requires changing one’s life style. Forget that. Let’s just continue changing light bulbs, driving hybrids, deferring personal responsibility to government, reading feelgood EDF monthly online columns, and pretending we’re environmentalists.

Comment from SRINIVAS KASULLA
October 6th, 2009 at 1:20 am

Global warming is a reall big hoax. Years of Carbon dioxide data from glacial cores shows us that warming and cooling on Planet Earth are perfectly natural and there is nothing going on now that has not happened in the past.
I am really very very glad that mrs Dominique has decided to write for EDF, great and i must say that the magazine will really boooooost and it will be in the shelves of all . I still remember and have read aboaut her editings in H&G and it was really a good magazine for the awareness of the REAL WORLD.

SRINIVAS KASULLA
srinivaskasulla@gmail.com

Comment from Bill Hurley
October 6th, 2009 at 9:46 am

I share the confusion on how to relate the urgency to others. I’m not certain I like the analogy of crossing the busy street because the traffic won’t get worse the longer you wait (necessarily).
I’ve used traveling up an icy mountain road with snow cliffs everywhere and the ice gets thicker and thicker the higher you rise. Obviously, backing back down gets harder the higher you go and involves danger at each step.
Of course, most people that I tell this to think “If it were that bad, someone in government would be doing something.” My thought is that it’s really the media who’s been responsible for most of the lack of public concern. With things like the NW Passage opening up the first time in recorded history – you’d think that would get very loud and frequent attention.
Although, I agree that the binary “this will happen” or “that will happen” are not there. The fact that science “doesn’t know what’ll happen” probably keeps the 24/7 news network attention elsewhere.

Comment from Bill Hurley
October 6th, 2009 at 9:49 am

I also must comment on earlier comments about previous CO2 climate changes. This was all before human civilization was as it is today (if it existed at all).
Unfortunately, the “greens” have chosen “SAVE THE EARTH” as it’s mantra and this is a misnomer. It should have said “SAVE HUMAN CIVILIZATION”.
There’s no doubt the earth will do just fine without us. It’s civilization that’s threatened!

Comment from cat gould
October 6th, 2009 at 2:48 pm

If people want to know the facts and the scientific data that points to anthropogenic climate change please go here

If not, then just keep your head in the sand.

Comment from robert
October 6th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I am troubled by all the incorrect and long ago debunked statements* made by anthropogenic climate change deniers in response to Dominique’s beautiful essay. I am also mystified by their presence here, on an EDF website. Are they a troll like species that roam the internet looking for all discussions of climate change where they can drop their gaseous bombs? Or are they a sub group of EDFer’s secretly plotting a coup?

*http://www.realclimate.org/ and particularly http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/index/

Comment from jjessee
October 6th, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Thank you Robert, I was wondering that myself!! (I’m betting the former)

Comment from hrsdncng
October 7th, 2009 at 10:06 am

How coincidental that this article would appear in my email box. Just yesterday my brother and I were commenting on the longer growing season we are experiencing in Maryland. A search under the minimal deadheads in my garden revealed cantaloupe and honeydew melons growing feverously into the month of October. Additional discoveries were scrumptous strawberries, tomatoes, green peppers, dill, spearmint, peppermint and basil still producing within my garden beds. A nice addition to my dinner table, however, we never planted these plants during the growing season!!! These plants grew from seeds that were being germinated within the protection of my compost bin. Thus, when the compost was tilled into the soil, these seeds began to sprout a “second” growing season within my garden beds!!! An amazing discovery that clearly is an example of global warming. When I was a child I remember helping my mother clear the garden beds following the harvest of the end of September. There was no need to continue watching the plants for growth because old man winter would frost the ground by the second week of October. Now here I am twenty years later, having moved only ten miles away from that home, watching this second growing season take shape. Not only have these compost bounties been a surprise, but also the fact that several other plants that usually begin their dormancy at this time of year are bearing new leaves and additional growth such as my nectarine trees and blackberry bushes. So, to all those who do not “believe” in global warming I say, “put on that sweater and maybe a log on the fireplace and enjoy those melons!”

Comment from Jane
October 7th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Interesting debate in the answers here. Well, I have one question for both sides. “What if you’re wrong?” In my mind, the ones who ignor the suggestion of a climate change problem will either be right, or suffer dire consequences along with everyone else in the world. On the other hand, those proponents of Climate change will either suffer dire consequences along with everyone else in the world (because they couldn’t yell loud enough to get the proper attention in time,)or enjoy a cleaner environment where citizens of the world will enjoy cleaner water, cleaner air, less health problems, and numerous other positive things. They will have the satisfaction of knowing that generations to come will appreciate what they have done for the survival of humanity on this planet. Can anyone else see other results? To me, even if there is just a little truth in the possibility of a climate change and all that will follow, why not try to clean the air and water, etc.? Why is it better to ignor this possibly traumatic situation? Maybe that’s another question? What have you to lose if you fight to clean up pollution and eventually it’s proven that there is no real climate change problem? And what do you gain by ignoring it?

Comment from rob
October 9th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Global climate change is really about the redistribution of wealth from the rich countries such as the US to poor countries like China. Don’t be fooled by these old hippy ideas. I remember in the 70’s they were screaming about the coming ice age and how we needed to curb the population of face extinction. Most of these deadlines for disaster have long since come and gone.

If you are a real scientist then you need to be honest and admit that a lot of the “global warming” “data” is based on computer “models” of very complex systems that we don’t even understand completely. If we really understood how the world, nature, the environment, weather, and most importantly the SUN worked then why are we bothering to do anymore research in anything? If that were the case all of you scientists could just go home because we “know everything”.

The truth is “science” can be and is often wrong. For every scientific concept or idea that gets “vetted” as being “probable” there are 1000 other competing theories that did NOT make it. Anyone who understands the scientific principal knows that science can not imperially know anything… it can just reason down to what is most likely or probable but you have to accept that we can always be wrong.

Remember how we were all taught that one LAW of the universe is that matter could not be created or destroyed? Remember that ABSOLUTE. Well we all know that is being challenged and the popular notion is now that it can be created and destroyed. So the global warming or global cooling people have been wrong more than they have been right. So I think they need to take a step back and be a bit more humble.

You all think that by yelling and screaming the worse thing that can happen is you will be wrong. Well that is just not true. What could happen is the destruction of civilization as we know it. Wars could be started over the social and political problems your ideas for “fixing” whatever it is you are afraid of cause.

Let’s talk about some other “science”. Let’s talk about the SUN. Do you all know and agree that the SUN is the source of all life and energy for life on earth? It is. Do you know that the SUN has been acting very strangely the last year or two with almost no sun spots? Do you know that our actual provable knowledge about the sun and how it works is VERY limited and is mostly theoretical? So that being the case how good could your computer models really be?

Furthermore what about history. What about GREENland when it was farmed by vikings in the not to distant past? What about people ice skating on the Thames river in London in the 1800’s? What about the moon and Mars experiencing “global warming” right now along with the earth? What about the magnetic storms and other strange weather on Venus that we have never seen before? Could it be that your old clunker car is causing all of this?

Maybe you all need to do some more research into how much more global climate change is linked to the global Communism movement than scientific fact.

PS. The cooling trend has not been for a “few days” it has been since at least 1998… pitiful disinformation attempt.

Comment from Grace Mulei
October 13th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Dear Robert and All,

It is the fact that the current global convention is about global warming and climate change that needs remediation action. The action requires policies and a commitment from global communities.

But then global warming policies have been narrowed to unrealistic global communism movement ignoring scientific facts, in contrary to global convention.

Think of the aforestation and the”No Tree Cutting Policy”
If all the nations agreed to this, where would societies get wood pulp from? Have the no tree cutting policy makers studied the tree life cycle? How long does a tree blossom? Do trees grow too old to serve for emission sinks pupose? The ‘no tree cutting’ policy has affected the pulp and the wood furniture industry,contributin to unemploiment, and clossure to wood pulp industry as some trees die of old age, never to be cut and replaced with new crop of trees.

Global communism movement had better be global convention frienly rather than economic constraining movements.

Grace

edfraternity@yahoo.co.uk

Kenya.

Comment from David
October 14th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

I remain amazed, Does EDF never tires about being wrong wrong on pretty much everything. “Climate Chage” yes there is climate change there always has been and always will be and the human race has no effect on it. I can not get over that those who tout the “global warming” concept want to say that the “fact” that the earth is cooling want to say that is global warming. Like it or not CO2 is necessary for life on this planet…of course I have long believed that the human race is something EDF most wants to eradicate. Not that you are interested, but some scientific information dumbed down for you to understand is: Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in our atmosphere and is comsumed by all plants providing oxygen to so that animals and humans can survive. It is a very, very small amount of our atmosphere – less than 1/25th of a percent. If you used a 100-yard football field for scale, it would be 1.4 inches in length. By comparison 99 yards of the football field would be taken up by nitrogen (78 yards) and oxygen (21 yards).

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