Carbon Dioxide Explained
In a recent press conference, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said that in the next few months, carbon dioxide (CO2) will be declared a dangerous pollutant. As Jackson states it, a formal “endangerment finding”will cause the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, which will, undoubtedly, help move climate change legislation through Congress.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could regulate greenhouse gases that qualify as pollutants and threaten public health. Greenhouse gases, which trap heat within the earth, are major contributors to climate change. In April, the EPA found carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to be pollutants that could possibly threaten public health.
Some powerful environmental forces, including President Obama and Jackson, would prefer if Congress implements the greenhouse gas limits because, according to Jackson, “it will combine the most efficient, most economy-wide, least costly and least disruptive way to deal with carbon dioxide pollution…We get further faster without top-down regulation.” The EPA is willing to handle the responsibility of regulating greenhouse gases given by the Supreme Court. Jackson says, “Two years is a long time for this country to wait for us to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
This new regulation will continue to cause opposition from those who do not believe in the dangers of carbon dioxide or climate change. However, CO2 is not just what we produce when we exhale — it is more complex and more damaging to the environment than most Americans really understand.
The issue with too much CO2
Carbon dioxide is required for plants to complete the process of photosynthesis, but too much can cause environmental problems. When CO2 is not captured by plants or other forms, it begins to accumulate in the atmosphere and the oceans. Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 emissions have significantly increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and other human activities. The Journal of Geophysical Research, even if we halt the emission of all future CO2, the environment will continue to experience climatic issues beyond the year 2100.
The main issue associated with CO2 is its natural ability to cause the Greenhouse Effect. The properties of CO2 allow it to maintain absorbed heat, thus the planet’s atmosphere begins to gradually heat up. As CO2 emissions increase, so does the overall temperature.
The oceans act like a large CO2 sponge. As they absorb the atmospheric trace gas, the gas’ solubility decreases and emits heat into the water. Thus, the oceans’ temperatures begin to rise. Many scientists believe this is the major cause of elevated water temperatures and the decreased sizes of snow compiles; like glaciers, ice patches, and icebergs.
Top Tips to Reducing your CO2 Emissions
- Walk whenever and wherever. You can even ride a bike or use another fuel-less device to get around. Save the environment and get a work out!
- Consider public transportation as opposed to driving by yourself. Most cities have excellent transportation systems, be it by bus or subway and they’re very inexpensive.
- Carpool whenever you can. There is no sense in having multiple people drive in the same direction when you can easily organize a carpooling system. Take turns driving – try this with your co-workers, classmates, family, or friends.
- Weatherization of your home can decrease your bills significantly with just a couple of easy adjustments within the home. Tiny cracks or old windows can let out your heat/cool air increasing the amount of energy you need to replace it. Follow our Sealing and Weatherization tips to get started.
- Eating smarter and locally, buying organic, or growing your own food eliminates the use of harmful pollutants. First get an idea of how and where to make improvements, you can calculate just how much carbon your dietary habits emit into the atmosphere. Use our low carbon diet calculator to get started.
- Use green cleaning products to reduce the amount of pollutants; such as CFC’s which deplete our ozone layer.
- Buy eco-friendly building supplies and build your project green. Lumber production is more often than not unsustainable. Taking down entire forest ecosystems has major effects on the environment from habitat destruction to direct consequences on the atmosphere. Forests act as the lungs for the Earth, inhaling all the CO2 and exhaling the oxygen we need. Protect them.
- Plant a tree or just get yourself a plant – they make wonderful companions, they look good in anyone’s home either inside or out and they willingly suck up all that excess CO2. If held indoors, plants will promote the circulation of good air quality.
- Recycle as much as humanly possible. Recycling or reusing existing products lessens the need to make more products which use up precious resources. This will save resources like plastics and fuel.
- Reduce your overall consumption in your daily life. Buying less of everything means less factories, less trash, and less carbon in the air. Watch this video to get started: The Story of Stuff.
Home CO2 Calculator