The rising levels of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
The rising levels of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
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Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is an important trace gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is part of the carbon cycle and is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis, which releases Oxygen. Humans and animals breathe oxygen and release Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere. Hence a certain balance is attained. However, other processes also release carbon dioxide to the environment, out of which the main contributor is the combustion of hydrocarbons. When a chemical compound that contains carbon is burned, the carbon oxidises and forms carbon dioxide, which is then released into the air. Since most human activity consumes fuel, which are currently primarily hydrocarbons, this leads to a sharp rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in the years following the industrial revolution. Carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse gas, which means that it absorbs and retains heat. Therefore, the higher the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more heat it can retain. Hence it is evident that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere directly correlates to the rising global temperatures.

Other than hydrocarbon combustion, another source of carbon dioxide is the incineration of waste. Incineration is by far the cheapest way to eliminate waste products and involves simply burning the solid waste material and extremely high temperatures. This consumes a large amount of fuel and also expels the constituent elements of the waste into the atmosphere, further contributing to the pollution. Responsible disposal and management of waste would involve the use of other eco-friendlier methods of waste management prior to resorting to incineration. Commercial waste management service providers such as Office cleaning Perth ensure the waste is treated and progressively disposes in stages as appropriate to minimise environmental impact.

The staggering rise

Prior to the 1950s, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has never passed 300 ppm (parts per million) for thousands of years. By 2016, the carbon dioxide concentration reached 400 ppm and as of April 2021, the concentration was 420 ppm. This has been the highest carbon dioxide concentration on Earth in 14 million years. This increase has been attributed to human activity, in particular, deforestation and the combustion of fossil fuels. This has naturally led to the Earth’s temperature increasing year by year, with each year being the highest temperature on record in recent memory. Excessive carbon dioxide can contribute towards acid rain as well, although this effect is minor compared to the acid rains caused by Sulphur and Nitrogen oxides (which are also released in the combustion of fossil fuels).

The future

According to current predictions, the 400-ppm estimate is likely to be a mid-point of a continued increase in the carbon dioxide concentration. If the current emission levels are continued, it is likely that over the next few hundred years, the carbon dioxide concentration will reach well over 1500 ppm. The prospects are slightly better if the emission levels are improved, although the levels will continue to rise. Even at zero emission levels, a return to pre-industrial concentrations is virtually impossible, and may take thousands of years.

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