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CO2 Pollution and Global Warming

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Friday, December 08, 2006]
Why is carbon dioxide, a life sustaining, compound considered pollution and how do scientists know that humans are responsible for the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and global warming? When does carbon dioxide become a pollutant?

There is so much debate surrounding CO2 and global warming and a tremendous amount of misinformation or basic misunderstanding of the issue and what the source of increased CO2 is. In her latest article, Roberta Barbalace tries to help the reader see past the noise and understand what it is we know about CO2 and how we know what the source of the increased CO2 levels are. Read entire article: "CO2 Pollution and Global Warming"

37 comments:

NOTICE: Comments are user generated feedback and do not represent the views and/or opinions of EnvironmentalChemistry.com.

Julia said...

In discussing the carbon cycle with a friend I discovered I am unclear on the details of how decomposing plants release CO2. Is that a product of decomposition? Is it just that there is more carbon available and then another process occurs to produce CO2? Or is it something else entirely?
All feedback appreciated.

Calvin said...

I am confused about how CO2 is responsible for the increase in the globes temperature. The arguement states that the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is the main cause of "greenhouse gases". My understanding is that these gases form a "shield" around the globe in the upper atmosphere. This shield allows light and heat in, but it doesn't allow it out again. Considering that the molecular weight of CO2 is 44 and the Air is 29, can you please explain how the CO2 gets into the upper atmosphere. Considering all the CO2 is produced at or near to ground level, surely it should sink and most probably be dissolved into the oceans.

Anonymous said...

I'm not extremely educated about this, and I believe that global warming is happening, but is it really happening just because of human activities? Are there other things out there that could be adding to the CO2? Like Volcanoes? I've heard a rumor that the earth goes through warm cycles, just like it goes through Ice Ages, maybe global warming is just a part of the earth's cycle?

Anonymous said...

We need to reduce the number of people on this earth. Or maybe we should just all hold our breath as long as we can, that would certainly reduce CO2 "emissions." Note to self, stop heavy breathing, including from exercise.

Albert said...

I have a simple question but could not find a right-to-the-point answer: is the increase of CO2 concentration that is actually measured enough to account for all the global worming observed? And I mean I want to see the calculations not just declarations by this politician or another. Anybody?

Anonymous said...

I am a 7th grade student trying to find out what the amin source of co2 is... i need 2 find this out fr a project im doin... how can we help reduce the main problem??? HELP!!

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

While dissent has its place. The reasons why we will not publish any comment even briefly arguing against climate change can be best explained by reading the following:

Climate change deniers: failsafe tips on how to spot them

How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic

If you doubt climate change is real and is being greatly influenced by human activity you are in denial. Human influenced climate change is real and a lot of people will suffer greatly if we don't do something to mend the damage we have caused. We are not going to provide a space for climate change deniers to spread lies.

Rohit said...

people say that the thickness of the ozone layer is increasing due to the pollutants accumulated in the atmosphere and especially due to CO2. the thicker layer traps more of the UV rays from the sun thereby resulting in an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere as well as the earth. is this 100%?

Anonymous said...

Rohit- the ozone layer still has holes despite the reduction of the CFC's that were said to cause the holes! The holes are now thought to be changing due to natural causes. What we do not know! The greenhouse effect does not conform to the basic 'law zero' of thermodynamics- that heat can only flow from warm to cold. The atmosphere is colder than the surface so heat does not reradiate to the surface only to space. Climate models insist that the troposphere is warm but measurements cannot detect this heat. The models are wrong!

Ron said...

Albert said "...I want to see the calculations not just declarations...". I agree. I ended up performing calculations myself as I wasn't satisfied with anything I could find. I analyzed the CO2 greenhouse effect here. While CO2 isn't the main culprit, it does effect H20 concentrations, which has a much greater greenhouse effect. I am still doing my own analysis of the H20 effect.
Disclaimer: I'm not a climatologist though I have over a decade of experience in scientific modeling as a professional physicist.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Carbon Dioxide should not be a pollutant because as it says in the article is a natural thing and is needed for the planet's life.

Anonymous said...

Ron said... "Albert said '...I want to see the calculations not just declarations...'. I agree." I agree with you agreeing that I agree.

Camden D. said...

That is pretty crazy that when the earth was new carbon dioxide took up over 80 percent of our atmosphere and the fact that we humans cant even live in an atmosphere with 30 percent of it carbon dioxide. I don't think that the carbon dioxide is the main problem for the oceans temperature going up, I think that the carbon dioxide is damaging the ozone layer and causing the water to become warmer.

Anonymous said...

I like what the article said about, "Saying CO2 isn't good for the environment it like saying Vitamin D is bad for your body. But we all know too much Vitamin D can be toxic." That is such a great analogy for CO2 because life needs it to survive, but too much can have fatal results for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I think that cutting down trees can help and hurt the environment in many ways such as the trees release CO2 helping the environment but the downside is that deforestation may be going to fast. Also the CO2 is needed for trees to make oxegen so why cut down trees, its like taking out oxegen

Zach said...

I think that CO2 is considered pollution because people feel that there is no use to us for carbon dioxide, but we have just not found one yet. Since we have not found a use for CO2, we think that it is useless and all it does is harm us. When we chop trees down, we release all of the CO2 that the tree was holding inside of it. Trees take in CO2 and give out oxygen. Since we are getting rid of trees, they are not putting out as much oxygen that the animals and plants need to survive.

Anonymous said...

Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant, just a gas we have produced way to much of. Nature had it's balance with CO2, having enough in the environment for the things that needed it, releasing it slowly, not to damage the environment. When we began producing CO2 in more ways than just the natural way, the CO2 in the environment becomes more and more. We need to cut down our unnatural production of CO2 and let nature fall back in balance.

Zach said...

I think that CO2 is considered pollution because people feel that there is no use to us for carbon dioxide, but we have just not found one yet. Since we have not found a use for CO2, we think that it is useless and all it does is harm us. When we chop trees down, we release all of the CO2 that the tree was holding inside of it. Trees take in CO2 and give out oxygen. Since we are getting rid of trees, they are not putting out as much oxygen that the animals and plants need to survive.

Holden L. said...

"...I want to see the calculations not just declarations..."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't find these issues self evident.

Anyway, it's already clear that fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases, and it's clear that climate change is occurring. Whether or not these events are truly connected, and that this isn't something that would have occurred in nature (heating and cooling periods, cyclical) is still under heavy debate, and the evidence is contradictory enough that it's hard to not just be led to a conclusion.

Keara B. said...

What I take from this is that if we have to much carbon dioxide in the air, then almost all life will not be able to sustain itself. Is this true? And if it is, then based on scientific reasoning and the fact (stated in the article) that the earth's atmosphere may have been made up of 80% carbon dioxide, then how has life managed to get here today?

Sarah T said...

I think it is very interesting about the global warming that Oceans have long been considered to be a sink for atmospheric carbon. And if it is releasing CO2 as a result of warming temperatures, the CO2 should be decreasing in the oceans. This kind of shocking to me that there is so much carbon dioxide in the world and I havn't even notice it probably because I don't think about it. I am definitely am more aware of it.

Lucy said...

Co2 emissions are destroying our Earth, our environment, and eventually it will destroy our lives as we know it. It disgusts me that congress does not see Co2 as a Pollutant. Sure, it's natural, but so is petroleum and too many vitamin C or D.

Anonymous said...

If the atmosphere changed to what it was a billion years ago (only can happen in a million years and it is nearly impossible) what will we as creatures that cannot survive on this planet do? Will the generation of today help the generation that will be in a million years? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I was amazed at how much CO2 was in the atmosphere when the Earth was new-80%! And also how much is made by people and human related activities. I think if there was less people in the world, maybe this whole "global warming" issue wouldn't even be happening right now.

Anonymous said...

What I got from this article is that with too much carbod dioxide emissions, the planet as we know it will be gone. I understand how this is the case, and when we cut down trees, each tree releases carbon dioxide, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the air, and a lot of living things need oxygen to survive.

Anonymous said...

If the oil companies were more generous and wanted people to go green, the atmosphere could be more clear of CO2 emissions from cars and the such. Deforestation is the product of increasing productivity and housing, as well as business. This allows more people to live on Earth, and more people means more CO2. More CO2 means less oxygen, and less oxygen means less life. Also, climate change is being caused because of the CO2 gas in the atmosphere. Marine life and land life is being greatly affected. We must go green and stop killing what brought us here in the first place. There are not going to be enough people to stop and help the Earth, so we ALL have to help.

Anonymous said...

The CO2 that is in the environment right now has been increased by deforestation because when trees are cut, they release CO2 which leads to pollution. If people know this and are trying to decrease the amount of CO2, then deforestation should not continue. The ocean may have less CO2, but the air has more which is no better than having it in the ocean.

Anonymous said...

The release of CO2 is a natural process and has occurred in nature for billions of years. So, I believe that this is all a load of rubbish.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with Robert Fabricant, because I do not think that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. We just have an abundant source of it. Nature is not the one that is producing all of the carbon dioxide, it is us. We are cutting down trees and burning them, which is releasing it into the air. Nature has its balance of carbon dioxide, like with the animals and plants. When animals and plants die, they release it into the air.

Anonymous said...

The CO2 gasses being emitted into the air have caused more harm than damage. Because of human nature being so greedy, the act of burning the fossils for fuel and deforestation has denied our prosterity to have enough oxygen to live. The overdose of Co2 could be a potential danger in other health issues that we are not aware of at the present time, too. WE know even less about the greenhouse gasses in oceans, therefore, there is not chance that we will figure out how to create more oxygen and decrease the amount of Co2 before it is too late, but there is still a glimmer of hope.

Anonymous said...

Carbon dioxide is like one of those things that you can't live with or without. I think it is good that Power plants are trying to contain the carbon dioxide, but I wonder what effects it could have when it is being stored underground.

Anonymous said...

If the atmosphere today was what it was over 4 billion years ago, there could be drastic changes in the environment and wildlife all over the planet. I don't know if CO2 is the problem for our planet. It is a possibility, but until we continue further research we will not know what is affecting it.

Sarah T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What I got from this article is that with too much carbod dioxide emissions, the planet as we know it will be gone. I understand how this is the case, and when we cut down trees, each tree releases carbon dioxide, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the air, and a lot of living things need oxygen to survive.

Anonymous said...

CO2 is really damaging our environment. Some scientists believe that it is because of an increase in CO2, but others think that its the other way around, it still damages our environment. CO2 can be found in fossil fuels, the organism didn't decay completely and the CO2 was never released into the atmosphere, but it wasn't so it was released into the environment. This article was very informative.

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

Okay, this is just weird, all of a sudden I got 24 posts to this post in about 15 minutes. Did it just hit some popular website?

nancy said...

i notice that nothing has been said about nuclear enegry plants warming the oceans.despite isotope comparisons with million years ago sea water,co2 comes out of solution as water warms,just like when one leaves a glass of cooled pepsi out and the fizz comes out,leaving a non-carbonated beverage.

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