Thinking about Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide, among other green house gases are naturally occurring. The green house effect/trapping of heat in Earth’s atmosphere is also naturally occurring. Warmed by the sun, our planet’s land and ocean surfaces constantly produce infrared radiation (heat). However, since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a lot of talk surrounding the use of carbon dioxide hurting our environment. The human population has been heavily reliant on the use of fossil fuels which exacerbates this issue of climate change. According to the video, “Climate 101,” we now rely on carbon-based fossil fuels to produce 85% of our energy, and humans produce up to 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Only 55% of this CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, land, and vegetation, while the rest is trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere causing an exponential increase in Earth’s temperatures. The biggest culprits to these numbers are fossil fuels, power plant and factories, and transportation. According to, “Without this natural greenhouse effect, Earth’s average annual temperature would be below freezing instead of close to 60 degrees F.” Despite this seemingly positive process, the way society functions today is hugely detrimental to the condition of our planet. Not only will temperatures continue to increase, but an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere also means an excess of evaporation, leading to an excess of precipitation, which will have the potential to produce catastrophic storms.

Climate Central¬†also raises an inconvenient truth about the climate reality the human population now faces. “The world has blown past the 400 million parts per million carbon dioxide milestone, and is unlikely to return below that threshold again in our lifetimes.” Now naturally growing plants in the northern hemisphere will decrease these parts per million slightly, but until humans no longer need to rely on carbon-based fuels, we will bring a “one-step forward” too many steps back.

4 thoughts on “Thinking about Carbon Dioxide

  1. Megan,
    I had NO IDEA that almost all energy is carbon based fossil fuels. I candidly haven’t really understood peoples general worry about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but so far, this class has informed me a lot! You mention that 55% of C02 is absorbed into the ocean and land leaving the other percentage trapped in the atmosphere. While the trapped amount raises temperatures, its also pretty frightening to think about the damage carbon dioxide has on aquatic life, specifically coral reefs which have less ability now to form their exoskeletons as a result of increasing CO2. Crazy and scary stuff!!!

  2. This is so interesting! Similar to Liesl, I did not know a lot about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before this class, but I am already learning and understanding a lot more about it. The article from mentions that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has not been this high since 3 million years ago. Why do you think this is significant? I also had no idea that when carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean it reacts with the water molecules, which lowers the ocean’s pH and interferes with the marine life’s ability to build their shells!

  3. It makes sense to me that fossil fuels are responsible for so much environmental damage. According to the EPA, power plants account for the greatest amount of CO2 emissions out of all the sectors of the US economy. 31% of greenhouse gas emissions each year come from electricity generation, followed by 26% of greenhouse gas emissions each year from transportation. Both of these sectors rely heavily on fossil fuels, so it seems logical that fossil fuels account for so much damage to Earth’s atmosphere.

  4. Meg,
    I think the numbers you presented in your blog are astonishing. You mentioned that we rely on carbon based fossil fuels to produce 85% of our energy. This is a huge number and really proves that we have become so reliant on these carbon based fossil fuels. I think it will be extremely important in the future to look for more sustainable options to produce energy.

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