Monday, January 23, 2012

Interesting facts about carbon dioxide (CO2)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas mostly responsible for climate change issue. Because of our dependence on fossil fuels the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere is constantly growing and as of November 2011, carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere is at a concentration of 390 ppm by volume. Cutting CO2 emissions is the key factor that will decide the outcome of our fight against climate change.

The recent American study has shown that reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would give Earth a wetter climate in the short term. Cutting CO2 emissions now would see an almost instant precipitation increase (within one year), but it would take many decades for climate to show the signs of cooling.

One of the proposed solutions on how to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions is carbon capture and storage, or in other words storing carbon dioxide underground. Most of currently proposed carbon capture and storage projects still lack feasibility necessary for wider implementation.

The scientists have calculated that in order to stabilize the warming effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere world would have to cut around 80 percent of current human-caused CO2 emissions.

Forests are together with our seas and oceans the largest carbon sinkers. Scientists have calculated that in period between 1990 and 2007, the global forests stored about 2.4 gigatons of carbon per year. Trees as well as plants sink carbon dioxide during photosynthesis (carbon dioxide is an important component of photosynthesis, which converts the energy from sunlight and a major part of the carbon cycle).

Scientists fear that the Earth's polar regions such as Arctic could in years to come cause massive emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is because Earth's polar regions have gigantic deposits of frozen carbon that could be eventually released with the further thawing of permafrost. The scientists estimate that these deposits contain over 1.5 trillion tons of trapped carbon, almost twice as much of carbon as currently contained in Earth's atmosphere.

In past, our planet has already experienced periods characterized with huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our planet has so far been always able to recover but it always took ten thousands of years before enough carbon was pulled from the Earth's atmosphere.

According to a 2008 study the burning of fossil fuels accounts for about 8.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. Deforestation of the tropical forests (including the replacement of the forest with land used for agriculture) accounts for about 1.5 billion tons per year.

Our oceans sink approximately one-third of all human carbon emissions. Some scientists fear that the increased climate change impact could significantly reduce our oceans ability to sink carbon. The scientists have already discovered that rising temperatures are slowing the carbon sinking across a large portion of the subtropical North Atlantic.