Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Increases

In reading an article from the Scientific American, I have learned that for the past five years, Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased at a rate of at least 2 parts per million, which is an “all time high” according to author Scott Waldman. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been keeping a close watch on increasing Carbon Dioxide atmospheric levels due to the intense environmental threat increases in CO2 levels pose. Pieter Tans is a lead scientist at the NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, and he is especially concerned at the rate of the increases of CO2 in our atmosphere, “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere” (Waldman 2017). Why the concern? High levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere can cause sea levels to rise, increase the existence of droughts, extreme weather including hurricanes, blizzards, and more. Outside of this article, I see my own concerns for rising CO2 levels in our atmosphere. A direct impact on all living things on this planet by the extreme weather is our ability to grow food. As the environment changes and becomes more hostile, it is also much more difficult for agricultural endeavors to thrive. This will end up causing food shortages and disastrous effects on all living creatures as well as the economy. Action must be taken to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions and Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere so that life can continue to thrive on Earth.

Link to article here.


Measuring Carbon Dioxide

The amount of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere is significantly increasing due to human activity and a lack of environmental friendly practices used by the public. According to NASA, one third of the carbon dioxide released into the air is dissolved into the ocean, which can threaten the livelihood of the marine ecosystem. Half of the carbon dioxide remains in the air. It is unknown where the remaining carbon dioxide goes, so to track the amount of carbon dioxide and its location, NASA has developed an earth orbiting satellite called OCO-2.

This new satellite will track and measure the carbon cycle and provide information as to where the remaining carbon dioxide will end up. During the ice ages, carbon dioxide levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), or .2 g/L, and increased to 400 ppm, or .4 g/L, in 2013. It is important to know this information and be able to measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so we can better prepare for changes in the environment. For example, an increased amount of carbon dioxide may cause extreme natural disasters and negatively impact food sources and animals. NASA’s new satellite will help to not only measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but it will also keep scientists informed about what to expect in the future regarding where the carbon dioxide will be absorbed and how this may impact the planet over time.

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.