This essay offers a defense to the position that humans are responsible for global warming.
What is Carbon Dioxide?
Before attempting to answer any questions based on observations about carbon dioxide, taking a moment to identify the carbon dioxide helps to ensure a clear understanding of the element. According to Princeton University (n.d.), “carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide, is a heavy odorless colorless gas formed during respiration and by the decomposition of organic substances”. This naturally occurring element is exists in the Earth’s atmosphere where it circulates between water, plants, soil and animals.
Current Carbon Dioxide Levels
Knowledge of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere helps scientists understand how the gas affects Earth, its atmosphere and any potential global warming. Carbon dioxide levels, measured in parts per million (ppm), defines a unit of measure “as a measure of small levels of pollutants in air, water, body fluids, etc. Parts per million is the mass ratio between the pollutant component and the solution” (TET, n.d.). Rising every year since 1958, the current atmospheric carbon dioxide level is 396.81 ppm according to co2now.org (2014). Scientists believe that they only have a short amount of time to get this and other greenhouse gases under control before the planet crosses the point of no return.
With a level of 396.81 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one may wonder if this level is the highest level the Earth has seen in the last 450,000 years. According to the graph found at Planet Seed’s website (2014), this is the highest levels of carbon dioxide level recorded in that time. In fact, the graph clearly shows a spike in carbon dioxide levels in the last portion of the graph likely to coincide with the rises recorded since 1958.
Humans, Carbon Dioxide & the Atmosphere
Human activity adds to the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Three sources that add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere include the use of fossil fuels, deforestation and industry. Burning fossil fuels including coal and oil based products releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere increasing carbon dioxide levels. “Burning of fossil fuel accounts for fifty-two to sixty five percent of the human-induced emissions” (Hilderman, 2011). It does not stop there.
Deforestation has two negative effects on the planet. It releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and removes a natural tool used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees and other plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Removing these from our ecosystem only help to tip the scales of carbon dioxide buildup in the wrong direction. “Deforestation accounts for twelve to twenty-five percent” (Hilderman, 2011) of the human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. Both the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation directly add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Industry adds carbon dioxide indirectly.
While industry does add carbon dioxide to the...