Hannah Scribbles

Why Does Carbon Dioxide Matter?

In Career on June 5, 2013 at 9:15 am

People in the environmental circuit were disappointed May 9 when carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reached a historic 400 parts per million. Speculation began. Was it too late to make a difference? Could industry changes alter the course of climate change?

CO2 molecule formula, carbon dioxide molecule, carbon dioxide ppm, co2 formulaCarbon dioxide is a natural – and necessary – component of the atmosphere. But since the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s, human technologies leaned heavily on processes that produced carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Ice cores drilled from before the Industrial Revolution show that carbon dioxide levels used to be much lower: about 280 parts per million.

The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has long-reaching effects.  I find the molecule’s effects on plant metabolism scarier than I do its contribution to overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Plants absorb carbon dioxide through the same pores they release water back into the atmosphere. When plants take in high levels of CO2, their pores shrink and the plants are unable to release as much water, according to a 2010 article by Science Daily. And, a study found that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led plants to diffuse about 20 percent less water, a change that has unknown (but conceivably bad) consequences on surrounding the surrounding ecosystem.

Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, but it is a major contenders. If this was a game of Street Fighter, then carbon dioxide would be Sagat.

What does it all mean?

Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since revised that May 9 reading to a measly 399.89 ppm it might mean nothing. Or everything.

clean technology, clean tech, green innovation, renewable energies, solar cells, electric cars, hydropower, EcotricityThe world is changing, and humans not only have to adapt to the change but adapter smarter.  Reaching 400 ppm is a self-imposed milestone that almost nobody marked the passing of.  But it is a reminder to recommit to innovating smarter than our grandparents, a hefty task considering we’ve established a way of life based on the technologies they created.

Clean technology is being developed.  Newer, better methods of storing energy and preventing waste within the energy grid are in production.  Charging stations for electric vehicles are being set up across the U.K. as technology moves forward there, driven by the high cost of petrol.  Solar cells are becoming more efficient producers of electricity with every innovation in the market.

Governments around the world can create carbon taxes, efficiency laws and invest in green tech, but none of that will matter unless it carries over to the business sector. Business drives innovation and growth, and nothing can change unless companies invest in clean technology and develop personal models for environmental stewardship that do not ring hollow.  This is something we have to undertake for ourselves.

What, if anything, does climate change mean to you?  What do you want to know about the topic that isn’t being talked about?  Maybe I can help.  Leave your comments below or follow me on Twitter to keep up the conversation!

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