Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the common types of gas that come from the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas. When these fuels are burned to generate electricity or drive our cars, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, where it traps heat.
When CO2 is released into the atmosphere it remains there until it is absorbed in some form. Natural processes that absorb CO2 cannot keep up. As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic. This combined with the increasing ocean temperatures, diminishes its ability to continue absorbing CO2. As a result more CO2 stays in the atmosphere.
The Integrated Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states: that it is greater than a ninety percent certainty that emissions of heat-trapping gasses from human activities have caused “most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century”.
The impact of carbon emissions
The impact of the above is that the planet is warming. From North Pole to South Pole; globally the mercury is already up one degree Fahrenheit, and possibly more in sensitive Polar Regions. Why are carbon emissions harmful…Ice is melting worldwide, this includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Artic sea ice. Seal levels are expected to rise between seven and twenty three centimetres by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could be between four and eight inches.
Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger. Species that depend on each other could become out of sync. An example of this is the early blooming of plants, much earlier than their pollinating insects become active. Floods and droughts will become more common. Less fresh water will be available. If the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate, it will be gone by 2100, this will leave thousands of people who rely on it, without a source of drinking water and electricity.
Some diseases will spread, such as malaria carried by mosquitoes. Ecosystems will change, with species moving farther north or becoming more successful; whereas others won’t be able to move and could become extinct. Polar bears are a great example of the change wrought on them by global warming.
Martyn Obbard, (a wildlife research scientist) has found that since the mid-1980’s polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier, with less ice on which to live and less fish to feed on. If the sea ice disappears so will the polar bears.
A Stanford scientist, has produced the first-ever study linking increased mortality specifically to carbon dioxide emissions. Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, states: that upward of 20,000 air-pollution-related-deaths per year per degree Celsius may be due to greenhouse gas. Jacobson cites the research as having particular implications for California, he goes on to say that the effects of carbon dioxide’s warming are most significant where the pollution is already severe. Given that California is home to six of the ten U.S. cities with the worst air quality, the state is likely to bear an increasingly disproportion burden of death if no new restrictions are placed on carbon dioxide emissions.
Why are carbon emissions harmful? Is really a question for all of us, and requires investigation, reflection, and most of all action.