The Keeling Curve indicates that the current concentration of CO2 as at March 7, 2016, is 403.71 ppm (Monroe, 2015). Over the past 450,000 years, the graph shows that the highest concentration of CO2 was approximately 210 ppm (Monroe, 2015). From the two results, we can conclude that the current concentration of CO2 is greater than the highs over the past 450,000 years. Carbon dioxide levels have continued to reach heights that exceed the natural trends, and it is because of the increasing pace by which humans utilize fossil fuels and carry out deforestation.
Humans continue to play a critical role in the ever increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution in the 1800s, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has never reduced. Humans use the following three sources to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. First, humans use electricity as a source of energy to power industries, homes and businesses. The combustion of fossil fuel to generate electricity and heat contribute a significant amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Fossil fuels generate about 85% of electricity globally. In 2013, fossil fuels accounted for approximately 37% of the total carbon dioxide emitted in the U.S (U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). China and India are moving fast with industrialization; therefore, the number of coal burning plants will increase.
The second source is the transportation sector. It is the second largest source since it entails combustion of fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline. Transporting people and goods is very energy intensive, and the emission of carbon dioxide have grown rapidly over the last two decades. Third, many industrial processes also play a role in the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Through the combustion of fossil fuel, the sector contributed 15% of the total carbon dioxide emitted in the U.S (U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). There are also other processes that produce carbon dioxide but involve chemical reactions, and they include the production of metals, cement and chemicals. Such industries consume a considerable amount of heat energy to convert raw materials into finished products hence emitting a massive quantity of carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is of greatest concern to the scientists because it plays a critical role in the enhanced greenhouse effect and climate change. Although human activities and natural sources account for the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, scientists are still researching on how and why the amount of the gas keeps on changing. The following two sources are responsible for the removal of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The first source is trees and plants. Carbon dioxide is readily removed from the atmosphere by green plants and algae through the process of photosynthesis (U.S Department of Commerce, n.d). Plants manufacture their food by chemically combining carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight. Such a biological process helps in fixing the removed carbon dioxide into soil compounds and biological materials. The second source is the ocean. Carbon dioxide can easily be removed from the atmosphere due to its high solubility and large surface area of the ocean. The ocean is a big reservoir and stores carbon dioxide within its depths at a rate that is 50 times more than the amount found in the terrestrial biosphere (U.S Department of Commerce, n.d). Besides, carbon dioxide molecule can stay in the ocean for more than 200 years. In most cases, it is only the surface water of the ocean that deals with the short-term changes in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. It is because of the slow rate at which the deep ocean waters and surface waters mix.
Forests cover approximately 31% of the land on this planet. They are an important physical feature that helps to mitigate climate change. However, deforestation has jeopardized the benefits people would have derived from forests. During photosynthesis, tropical rainforest trees take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. They do the opposite process during respiration whereby they release carbon dioxide and take in oxygen. The remaining carbon after the process of photosynthesis is stored in the plant to allow it to grow bigger. In circumstances when deforestation occurs, the carbon stored is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide whereby it combines with other greenhouse gases causing global warming.
Similarly, when trees are cleared, there will be a disturbance in the water cycle, and this will increase the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere while that of oxygen reduces. The increase in the levels of carbon dioxide will cause a change in the amount of sun’s energy reflected by the earth’s surface (Davies, 2015). The atmosphere will trap more heat from sunlight making it to warm up than usual thus causing global warming. On the same note, the clearing of forests reduces the amount of photosynthesis; a process that plants use to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as carbon. Therefore, the concentration of carbon dioxide due to deforestation dictates the universal temperature, and this enhances the greenhouse effect that will, in turn, result to global warming (Davies, 2015).
The data vividly explain that humans have significantly contributed to global warming. In recent years, the research showed that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing by approximately 2.2 ppm per year (Monroe, 2015). Besides, between February and March 2016, the level of carbon dioxide has constantly remained above 400 ppm, and this is because of the continuous burning of fossil fuels and deforestation (Monroe, 2015). Also, the empirical evidence shows that the rising levels of global average temperatures are because of the increased carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases due to human activities. The greenhouse emission has been effective since the industrial revolution at around 1750. Therefore, the increased greenhouse effects have caused a substantial rise in the earth’s temperature and this is what causes global warming. We should also know that the earth’s climate has always experienced the warming and cooling in the past due to the changes in volcanic eruptions, sun’s intensity and heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Moreover, the data indicates that the natural amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere varied from 180 ppm to 280 ppm over the last 450,000 years (Monroe, 2015). When we compare the two findings from the scientist, we can conclude that human activities cause today’s global warming. The research also shows that the chemical composition of carbon dioxide has human fingerprints. The use of fossil fuels to run industries, generate electricity and transport releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Davies, B. (2015, January 09). Ice core basics. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://www.antarcticglaciers.org/glaciers-and-climate/ice-cores/ice-core-basics/
Monroe, R. (2015). The Keeling Curve. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu./
U.S Department of Commerce. (n.d.). ESRL Global Monitoring Division – Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/basics.html
U.S Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html
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