Carbon Dioxide from Deforestation

An article from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains how we measure the amount of CO2 from deforestation in our atmosphere. The study concludes that deforestation contributes to around 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere per year; that is, about 10% of all CO2 emissions.

Simplifying these numbers and their units to a more easily understandable human term is extremely helpful in cases such as this. Explaining that 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide is different from 3 billion tons of bricks is essential in this understanding. So just how big (or small) is 3 billion tons of CO2, and how would we find out?

We can start by using the unit factor method to compute this number into human terms. For instance, we could express 3 billion tons of CO2 as the equivalent of 13 million railroad cars, stretching around 125,000 miles or half way to the moon. By using a familiar term such as the size of a piece of land or animal, we get to see a big number from a different perspective. That being said, the total amount of CO2 from deforestation is equivalent to the total emissions from all of Western Europe combined.

Finally, the article takes into consideration the approximation and estimations that we read about in the textbook this week. The author described two approaches that one might take to compute these numbers. In one approach they explain using the most certain and comparable numbers, focusing on specific dates and measuring only one thing (CO2). The next approach brings in other aspects with complete and up-to-date information, calculating all possible variables creating a more substantial result.

There are many different ways and units to measure numbers with. In this specific case, all calculations came out to around the same conclusion: 10% of all CO2 emissions are from deforestation itself, or the equivalent of 600 million cars (twice as many than there are in the entire US).


Transportation’s Detrimental Impact On Our Earth

In today’s modern era, we are so fortunate to have the luxury of different forms of transportation, specifically automobiles. Cars make every day travel so efficient and easy that we rarely have to think about getting from place to place regardless of whether or not we own a car considering ubers, taxis, and buses. Even though vehicles enable an easier life, their immense carbon dioxide emissions strain the earth and continues to contribute to global warming.

According to the the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s article titled Greenhouse Gas Emissions, for every 1 mile that an average passenger vehicle drives, 404 grams of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere which is .1 short of a pound. 1 gallon of gasoline contains 8,887 grams of CO2 which is roughly 19 pounds and a gallon of diesel contains 10,180 grams or 22 pounds carbon dioxide. Just as we discussed in class, a number can have much more meaning depending on its relevance to another number. A typical passenger car holds 16 gallons of gas which multiplied by the amount of carbon dioxide in 1 gallon is for one car alone 142,192 grams. Similarly, the amount of CO2 that a car emits after driving one mile is not significant alone until the entire distance that one drives is considered. For example, it is 142 miles from my home to Union College one way driving which multiplied by the amount of carbon dioxide that a car emits per mile equals 57, 368 grams or 126 pounds. Four of my school friends are from the same area that I am from, though only one of them carpools leaving three cars plus my own to drive the same distance up to Union one way for a grand total of 229,472 grams of carbon dioxide or 207 pounds.

While transportation is incredibly useful, it should not be abused considering that more often than not the same people aspire to travel to the same place. Carpooling is a sustainable option to preserve our earth and prevent more CO2 emissions from destroying our future generations life and health. While it may seem inconvenient to walk to the store a mile down the street, the amount of countless times that one chooses to drive back and fourth from home to the market will only further negatively and needlessly impact our earth  from CO2 emission.

Carbon Dioxide and its’ Effect on Agriculture

Although living organisms emit carbon dioxide (CO2), in this context it is considered as a pollutant. For this specific context, CO2 is defined also as the modes of transportation, the use of power plants, factories and so on. And as industries are expanding, more of the gaseous CO2 is being released resulting in an increased overall atmospheric temperature in addition to affecting the growth of agriculture.

Furthermore, plants need CO2 to survive. One way in which this process is completed is by taking advantage of photosynthesis. In a study completed by researcher, Elliot Campbell, data found that over the past decade, humans have contributed to the identified increase in photosynthesis. This increase of photosynthesis has been at a rate of 30%.  At first, the results overall suggested that with increased amounts of carbon dioxide present, there will be an increase in crop abundance, which therefore benefits the farmers.

But, the results are not as simple as they may sound. Increased amounts of photosynthesis does not translate to a direct increase in produce. Other influential factors of agricultural growth are due to the advancements of seed variants, irrigation systems and fertilizers. Surprisingly, research has found that more CO2 can make plants less nutritious. With an increased presence of CO2 it has been found that plants contain lower concentrations of  important nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and copper. Higher rates of carbon dioxide also result in a faster rate in which microbes take up nutrients. This acceleration in microbe action prevents the plants from taking up valuable nutrients through their roots. The lack of nutrients further can make humans more vulnerable for diseases including pneumonia and malaria. Furthermore, increased carbon dioxide levels have also influence the concentrations of iron. Iron is a crucial in helping pump oxygen throughout the body.  This research suggests that the “rate of iron deficiency” will increase from 21% to 27% in the next 10 years. 

            There needs to be an increase in awareness and communication about how to decrease an individuals’ carbon footprint. Our own use of fossil fuels decreases the nutrient value in our produce and weakens our immune system.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’s Effect on Marine Life

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide rates are now higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years. According to a study conducted by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere has not been this high since Earth’s average temperature ranged from 2-3 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Carbon Dioxide is a gas that absorbs heat, it also releases this heat gradually over time. As more fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are burned annually for energy, the CO2 is being released at a higher rate, thus heating up the earth more quickly, and contributing to climate change. The NOAA predicts that this increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely responsible for two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth’s temperature to rise.

Throughout the NOAA’s report, they explained how Carbon Dioxide plays an interesting role in Earth’s system because it dissolves into the ocean. When CO2 reacts with these molecules of water, it produces Carbonic Acid, which lowers the ocean’s pH. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean’s pH has shifted from 8.21 to 8.10. This ocean acidification drop of approximately 0.1 is extremely vital in the survival of marine life. This very small change in pH creates a 30 percent increase of acidity to the ocean.

Ocean acidification goes into the idea of measurements we had previously discussed in class. Looking from an outside perspective, without knowing the consequences, we would assume that a 0.1 acidity increase is virtually nothing. However, it’s effect is more detrimental than we think.  The 30 percent acidity increase makes it more difficult for marine life to extract calcium from the water to build their shells and skeletons. Therefore, through our study of scales and measurements, the context of each situation is extremely important when analyzing sustainability issues.



Source: Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide