Carbon dioxide: Climate enemy no. 2, uh, that’s according to whom now?

If you thought yesterday’s (Jan. 20, 2015) “Methane: Climate enemy no. 1. On EPA’s emissions-reductions watch list” post was something, there is more where that came from – that’d be today’s thread and today’s focus: carbon dioxide. Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Moreover, my theme this year being waste, what better is there to converse on than the gas carbon dioxide as waste.

ShipTracks_MODIS_2005may11[1]Carbon dioxide (CO2), it gets a lot of attention. And now with today’s post, even more. So: why so much attention? In case you hadn’t already guessed, it’s the gas’ connection, perceived or actual, to climate change, a construct over which much controversy has surfaced and much debate has boiled over.

Okay, let’s review.

In “A polluted air/warming world connection? On this the jury is still out, apparently,” I offered: “So, a question I have is: if there is a growing belief that climate change is somewhat serious, serious or very serious in the eyes of an American majority, if this is true, then alone, is this enough to prompt Americans to make corresponding lifestyle or behavioral changes so as to try to lower individual carbon footprints?”

In the same blog I also asked: “So, how serious a threat is climate disruption, anyway? Or, is it a threat at all? If it is, and deemed either very serious or even serious, isn’t this precedent-setting enough in terms of our trying to get a handle on carbon dioxide releases, the [main] substance many are blaming for fueling climate disruption?”

What I know for a fact is that in 2012, the total U.S. metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent released was equal to 6,526 million, and include in that carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

I also know that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is close to 400 parts per million. That is how abundant CO2 in the air is.

Meanwhile, what EPA has to say is that a global warming potential has been calculated for each of the greenhouse gases, done for the purpose of determining how efficient each GHG is in terms of its energy-absorption abilities in addition to determining their survivability (how long on average each will remain in the atmosphere).

In the U.S., of all of the GHG emissions, carbon dioxide appears to be playing the single greatest role as a driver of human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change, CO2 comprising 82 percent of total U.S. GHGs.

And, if you want to know what else, just as winter this year in my neck of the woods is a virtual carbon-copy of last year’s, as proof, in my back yard day lilies and irises are coming up; for days on end air-pollution-filled and sullen-looking skies have become a regular sight; and on top of this the drought the southwest is experiencing has not relented (which is now in its fourth year). And, it’s anyone’s guess what’s behind this. Can global warming be to blame? I mean, really, what else could it be?! What’s your take?

To learn more about carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas emission, its global warming potential, trend information, opportunities for effective mitigation, etc., go here.

Image above: NASA

– Alan Kandel

2 thoughts on “Carbon dioxide: Climate enemy no. 2, uh, that’s according to whom now?”

  1. There is no question that atmospheric CO2 is at record levels. There is no argument it is a greenhouse gas. There is no argument that climate is changing, it always has and continues to change. History is full climate change effects on humans and environment. BUT is our climate warming? Is the greenhouse effect always bad? A Harvard professor has shown how orbital changes also affect climate. We are talking glaciers across the northern hemisphere! As he pointed out global warming has offset global cooling. Obviously there can be too much of a good thing. Read more here

    • Your input is much appreciated.

      Moreover, good article. The information the author provided adds yet another dimension in terms of possible explanations of glaciation and de-glaciation and, more broadly, what the author terms Earth’s orbital obliquity and precession.

      It is important that research in this and related areas continue.

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