'Cause I Said So…

The Truth About Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Posted in Environmentalism, Global Warming by kevinsoberg on July 12, 2011

Way back in February, I was listening to the previous day’s podcast of The Mark Levin Show. In the second hour of the program, a caller challenged Mark on his opposition to the theory of anthropomorphic global warming induced by increases in atmospheric Carbon dioxide. The caller claimed some astronomic figures on the amount of carbon dioxide released each year. When Mark asked the caller for the source of his figures, he claimed it was from “science”. Well, of course Mark would have none of that. So, of course, Mark blasted him and dropped him. Rightly so.

As several of Mark’s subsequent callers corrected the false figures, I don’t have to get into the minutia concerning these numbers. Spend some time and look them up yourself. Anyway, discussing numbers without the proper charts make them hard to conceptualize. Instead, I want to put the idea of atmospheric Carbon dioxide in its proper perspective.

What I’m about to say was taught to most of us in our Earth Sciences class in middle school. Along with plate tectonics, the “greenhouse” effect, Earth’s rotation, and the Moon’s effects on Earth’s tides, we learned some interesting facts about “free Oxygen” in Earth’s atmosphere. These facts are:  Earth contains the largest amount of free Oxygen as a percentage of its atmosphere of any known planet, before the appearance of life there was only trace amounts of free Oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, and almost all of the free Oxygen on Earth exists as the result of photosynthesis.

At one time, almost all of Earth’s atmospheric Oxygen, which currently makes up 20.95% of Earth’s atmosphere, was bound to Carbon as the gas Carbon dioxide. If there had never been photosynthetic life, Carbon dioxide would have continued to constitute about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere, instead of its current 0.039%. When you do the math you find that over 99.998% of the earth’s atmospheric Oxygen has been freed from Carbon dioxide. How much less Carbon dioxide do the unthinking want there to be? It is already a trace chemical in the atmosphere. There is almost twenty-four times more Argon in the atmosphere than there is Carbon dioxide.

Now, what is meant by “free” Oxygen? Oxygen does not exist in monatomic form, as a single atom. Elemental Oxygen is only stable as diatomic and triatomic molecules (O2 and O3), having two or three atoms of Oxygen chemically bound to one another. Both forms of molecular Oxygen are very reactive, apt to combine with other chemicals to form new compounds. In fact, Oxygen is so likely to react with other chemicals we have multiple names for the process: oxidation, rusting, tarnishing and burning. Oxygen’s high reactivity is why we find it necessary to limit its contact with metals to prevent their degradation. Oxygen’s reactivity is also why we are able to inhale oxygen (O2) and exhale carbon dioxide (CO2).

If all of the Carbon dioxide broken down by photosynthesis to create Oxygen were quickly converted back to Carbon dioxide on a one-to-one basis to fuel our existence, then where is all the Carbon dioxide? Shouldn’t there be a lot more Carbon dioxide than the 0.039% in the atmosphere? Given Oxygen’s high reactivity, how did almost all of the Earth’s Carbon dioxide end up converted to Oxygen? Wow, those are all good questions.

Here is the answer… All of the Carbon once present in the primordial atmosphere is now present in your body, the structures of every other living organism, and the remains of previously living organisms.

The carbon released from Carbon dioxide is not only used for fuel. Much of it is used by living organisms to create their physical structures. When you look at a tree, you are really looking at Carbon which has been captured from the atmosphere. When you look at your food, you are looking at Carbon which once was in the atmosphere. When you look in the mirror, you are looking at Carbon once in the atmosphere.

So much Carbon has been removed from the atmosphere that it is now a limiting factor for the growth of plant life. More atmospheric Carbon dioxide would actually increase the growth rate of photosynthetic life forms. So, if you’re worried about potentially rising levels of Carbon dioxide, I wouldn’t bother. Photosynthetic life removed it once. It will remove it again.

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