Al Gore, Global Warming, and Ice Caps melting are some of the images people summon up in their minds when they hear about the recent increase in carbon dioxide levels. However, it is important to really understand what an increase in the carbon dioxide level really means.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in simple words is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas which is about 1.5 times as heavy as air. You might have even seen CO2, since in solid form it is known as dry ice – used for smoke seen during stage performances. CO2 is also used in soft drinks, foods, and aerosol products such as deodorants. In fact, CO2 is all around us. It is a gas that we exhale, and is taken in by plants to make food. Carbon Dioxide is also emitted during the burning of fossil fuels and is one of the greenhouse gases that exist on our planet.
A greenhouse gas is simply a gas that captures and stories heat. These gases can trap heat that is supposed to leave the Earth, and hence raise the temperature of the earth. There are many gases in our atmosphere that act as greenhouse gases; CO2 being one of them.
In recent times however, the amount or “concentration” of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has increased. In fact, in the last 150 years the CO2 concentration has risen from 280 in the early 20th century to nearly 392 parts per million (ppm) in as of 2011. Today it is scientifically well documented that this increase has mainly occurred due to human activity. Since the birth of the industrial revolution, huge quantities of fossil fuels were burnt, at an exponential rate. This increased the CO2 levels in our atmosphere. Another reason why the CO2 levels have escalated significantly is due to deforestation. This is what people mean by the great increase in CO2 in recent times.
The reason why the increase in the Carbon Dioxide levels is an issue of great significance is since it contributes to global warming, or global climate change. As the CO2 levels increase, global warming is increased. The Earth becomes warmer, as more and more heat is stored and not allowed to escape. The effects of this are disastrous. These include the spread of diseases, more hurricanes, sea levels rising, and more wildfires, just to name a few.
Hence, it is important for us to understand what CO2 cocentration is, and the need to control it by our activities.