CO2 Levels are Rising

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occuring greenhouse gas that is a part of our atmosphere. The reliance on factories and various forms of transportation to burn fossil fuels have increased the amount of CO2 found in our atmosphere today. While, carbon dioxide only makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere this number has increased significantly overtime. Today CO2 levels consist of over 380 parts per million (ppm) but, prior to the Industrial Revolution carbon dioxide consisted of 270 ppm. Specifically, throughout this decade, CO2 levels have increased on average, 2.3ppm per year. Also, we emit 400 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. In metric units this is 362.874 Tonnes. Again, this number simply shows that while CO2 makes up less than 1% of our atmosphere, the unnatural increase of CO2 has shown negative effects.

It is important that we find a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it has serious effects on the environment such as making our oceans more acidic and increasing the temperature on earth.  A New York Times article discusses the fact that removing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere is a potential way to stop global warming. The goal would be to keep the carbon dioxide below the two degree Celsius target estimated in 2015 by the Paris Agreement. However, this is an extremely difficult task. One suggestion would be to follow a process known as “direct air capture” to minimize its presence. All of the studies show that it is extremely hard to decrease the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere but it is crucial that we take conscious steps to reduce it for the future sake of our environment.

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

Blog Post #1

I hardly knew anything about sustainability before I came to Union. I knew as a political junkie that the issues related to climate change were sensitive, and sharply divided along political lines. But I didn’t really understand the issues themselves, nor their importance. Since then, I’ve learned so much more about sustainability than I could have imagined. I’ve learned about Climate Change and Global Warming, and the potentially devastating effects they could wreak on the planet. I’ve also learned about German society, as a German minor, and how Germans try to live in sustainable and eco-friendly ways. In my own life, I’ve tried to live more sustainably, and reduce my carbon footprint. I try to be conscious about what I can do to help save the planet.

I’d like to learn even more about sustainability, so I’m looking forward to this class. And, as a political science major, I want to understand more broadly how societies can adapt and change to this issue. To me, sustainability is passing on to the next generation the resources and beauty of the planet, keeping them in the same condition in which we found them. That takes work, especially given our current trends. I want to be a part of it.


Why Math of Sustainability

The first moment I saw the earth as more than a mere surface we live on was my freshman year of high school. I was on a service trip in Nicaragua, and on the final night we climbed to the top of an active volcano, and sat while watching the most incredible sunset I have ever witnessed. Watching the incredibly large, bright red sun move down beneath the mountains on the horizon within minutes and witnessing the entire view turn to darkness was a new level of breathtaking. This is when I started to understand the utter beauty of this planet.

When I noticed that this was an option for a course, I felt that it would be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about making sure the planet can stay as beautiful and natural as possible. People constantly try to convince others to do what they can to help the environment and the world we live in, but so many of us do not understand why, or just how bad the state of our planet is. I think learning the specific stats and numbers surrounding the problem of the poor state of our environment will not only bring more light to the problem, but hopefully convince people to do what they can to help. 

Sustainability Blog #1

From spending summers in Beijing, to months in Australia and New Zealand my view on what sustainability means has drastically changed. To me, sustainability is defined as something that can be managed and maintained over time at a controlled rate. In the context of environmental climate change, and with this definition, clearly climate change has not been environmentally sustained. The New York Times published an article, Pollution May Dim Thinking Skills, which emphasizes how the world is not sustainably maintaining the environment. The results of this longitudinal study suggest that pollution can negatively influence people’s language production, processing, math skills, and increased risk for Alzheimer’s and respiratory disease. China’s carbon dioxide emissions have increased over the previous year, even though the country has been setting climate change goals. At this rate of pollution, scientists predict that by the year 2030, about 75.6 million people will suffer from Dementia. The goal of this study is to increase awareness about the negative effects of climate change and to prevent developing and developed countries from increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Individuals should reflect and take a step back and track their carbon footprint – such as are there places where you drive, and should walk instead? What temperature do you keep your air conditioner on?

Australia study abroad 2017 – Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia