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How is Carbon Dioxide Affecting the Earth?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2017
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Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, meaning that it is among a family of gases including water vapor, ozone, and nitrous oxide. Together, these gases make the Earth habitable, by increasing heat efficiency and keeping the temperature of the planet stable. The issue with carbon dioxide in particular is that there is currently more of it in the atmosphere than there should be, and it is starting to trap too much heat as a result. The extra heat trapped by the growing number of greenhouse gases is leading to a phenomenon called global warming.

Many things generate carbon dioxide naturally, including respiration, volcanic eruptions, and fires. In a natural cycle, much of this compound is taken up by trees, who use it for energy, producing oxygen as a byproduct. Carbon dioxide is actually a very important greenhouse gas, and an important part of the process that makes Earth so pleasant to live on. The amount being generated, however, started to outstrip the Earth's abilities to handle it in the 20th century. As a result, a steady rise in the atmospheric gas was observed, and scientists also began to link it with a slow creep in global temperatures. The difference of only a few degrees in annual average temperatures has the potential to be devastating, and many nations are beginning to be concerned about carbon dioxide.

Two things are contributing to the rise of carbon dioxide levels. The first is the generation of large amounts of the compound through the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline. Fossil fuels contain large amounts of carbon, which reacts with oxygen when burned. Since many industrial nations base their society on industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels, dangerously large amounts of the gas are being generated. The second issue is a decline in organisms, like trees and plankton, that would normally process this compound. This is also a problem caused by the activities of humans, which have led to widespread deforestation and ocean pollution.

Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere appear to be clearly linked with the rise in global temperature. The international dispute over global warming is not centered on whether or not it is happening, in most cases, but whether or not it is part of a natural cycle. People who do not believe in global warming suggest that global weather runs in cyclical patterns, and the global warming trend is a natural spike in global temperatures, despite the unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide levels. Scientists who have studied ancient climate models, however, argue that global warming is accelerating very rapidly, and far more dramatically, than past climate change. These scientists believe that global warming is being caused by humans, and that our growing emissions need to be checked before it is too late.

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anon991451
Post 22

@Ace: First off, it is Phosphorus that is following down the Mississippi from agriculture that contributes to the "Dead Zone". And CO2 is a "greenhouse gas" as is oxygen, water vapor and nitrogen. CO2 along with the other trap heat between the earths crust and the atmosphere, not letting it escape. This in turn raises the temperature of the earth. Therefore, more "greenhouse gases" means more heat is being trapped which causes the heat to rise even more. In addition the more CO2 in the air, means that the ocean needs to absorb more (along with the trees, plankton etc). This causes the acidic level and the water temp to rise. The acidic level is dangerous to the aquatic wildlife and the temp rise is what is making the polar ice to melt, raising sea levels. And that is just the start.

anon348378
Post 20

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anon342882
Post 19

We all can become climate healer individually and collectively by doing four simple things, but in the eye of some these thing many seem radical or inconsequential to climate healing and healing the earth.

First, become vegans, start growing our own food, opt out of the culture of consumerism, and collaborate with like minded individuals and grass root organization. A leader, an organization, or government assistance is not required for those who genuinely want to take concrete actions to save the earth for future generations.

anon318934
Post 17

I have a question. Beside burning less fossil fuel, how can we reduce the amount of CO2 that goes into the atmosphere?

umbra21
Post 14

When I was visiting some friends I happened to get talking to a climate scientist who had been working on global warming. He told me that anyone who knew what they were talking about was extremely depressed about it (and this was quite a few years ago now).

Basically, he said that there was almost no way we could stop it from really changing the face of the planet now, the only question is how it's going to happen. Even if we went about completely reducing carbon dioxide and other sources of global warming (almost impossible when you realize that farming creates a lot of it) the atmosphere takes so long to react that it would be 50 years before we started seeing a difference.

In other words, he told me, it might already be too late.

irontoenail
Post 13

@indigomoth - I could never understand why people are so against attempts at carbon dioxide reduction. I mean, you only have to look at the extremely high rates of lung disease in big cities like Beijing to see that there is no good aspect to this kind of pollution.

I really hope that we put our scientific muscle and ability behind figuring out a way to change our industry so that we don't have to deal with it anymore.

indigomoth
Post 12

The thing is, global warming is a big issue. So every time a scientist publishes any work on it, other scientists around the world check that work. So, yes, they might get some things wrong, but it's not very likely to all be wrong. Most of it is probably going to be right. They have no reason to lie. There's plenty of research to go around without global warming. It's not like scientists are actually making money out of it.

And they've known things like how carbon dioxide and nitrogen and other gases react in the atmosphere for a long time.

As it says in the article, the only real controversy right now is whether carbon dioxide emissions are

contributing to global warming or whether it is a natural phenomenon. And even that is generally not considered to be that much of a question now.
anon77808
Post 10

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anon58880
Post 9

Yes AcePilot101. these articles are very intelligent and insightful. love

DuecePilot102

AcePilot101
Post 8

Never mind. I read your other articles which answer all my questions. Thank you.

AcePilot101
Post 7

Is it possible that global warming hysteria is driven by those who want to push up prices and/or taxes?

AcePilot101
Post 6

I am sure that industrial pollution does affect the quality of life on our planet but does it really contribute to global warming? How do you know?

AcePilot101
Post 5

Nitrogen is flushed down the Mississippi River by agriculture and may contribute to the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. Are you sure that nitrogen is NOT a greenhouse gas in our atmosphere?

AcePilot101
Post 4

Further to the discussion on global warming, is it not true that ozone depletion has slowed the process of global warming?

AcePilot101
Post 3

Plants need Carbon Dioxide to live but now it is considered a 'greenhouse gas' and contributes to global warming. I have been told that Carbon Dioxide is about .038 percent of the total atmosphere. How can that trace amount have any effect on global warming?

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