IS CARBON DIOXIDE FROM FOSSIL FUEL CHANGING MAN'S ENVIRONMENT?

DIVERGING POINTS OF VIEW ARE CITED TO ILLUSTRATE HOW WIDELY DIVERGENT ARE VIEWS CONCERNING THE POSSIBLE PERIL OF CARBON DIOXIDE IN THE ATMOSPHERE. ONLY ABOUT ONE TWO-THOUSANDTH OF THE ATMOSPHERE AND ONE TEN-THOUSANDTH OF THE OCEAN ARE CARBON DIOXIDE. YET TO LIVING CREATURES, THESE SMALL FRACTIONS ARE OF VITAL IMPORTANCE. CARBON IS THE BASIC BUILDING BLOCK OF ORGANIC COMPOUNDS, AND LAND PLANTS OBTAIN ALL OF THEIR CARBON FROM ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE. THE ANNUAL INPUT TO THE ATMOSPHERE OF CARBON DIOXIDE FROM FOSSIL FUELS CAN BE ESTIMATED WITHIN AN ACCURACY OF ABOUT 20 PER CENT FROM RECORDS OF THE PRODUCTION OF COAL, PETROLEUM, AND THE OTHER FOSSIL FUELS. THE RATE OF INPUT HAS RISEN RAPIDLY SINCE 1850 WITH A DOUBLING TIME OF FIFTEEN TO TWENTY YEARS EXCEPT FOR A NOTICEABLE SLOWING DURING THE ECONOMIC DEPRESSION AND THE TWO WORLD WARS. ANALYSIS SUGGESTS THAT THE SURFACE LAYER OF OCEAN WATER HAS NOT BEEN THE PRINCIPAL AGENT FOR REMOVING FOSSIL FUEL CARBON DIOXIDE FROM THE AIR, AT LEAST DURING THE PAST FEW YEARS. IN ANY CASE, THE SURFACE LAYER OF OCEAN WATER IS INSUFFICIENT TO HOLD MORE THAN ABOUT 10 PER CENT OF THE FOSSIL FUEL CARBON DIOXIDE WHICH HAS LEFT THE ATMOSPHERE. PERHAPS LAND PLANTS, BY GROWING MORE RAPIDLY BY THE CARBON DIOXIDE FERTILIZATION, ARE NOW REMOVING THIS EXCESS CARBON DIOXIDE. HOWEVER, IT IS EVIDENT THAT WE ARE UNABLE TO PREDICT FROM KNOWLEDGE OF THE CARBON CYCLE THE REDISTRIBUTION OF CARBON DIOXIDE FROM FOSSIL FUEL OVER THE COMING DECADES AND CENTURIES. THE CLIMATIC RESPONSE TO AN INCREASE IN ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE IS DISCUSSED USING SOME CALCULATIONS BASED ON STATIC MODELS OF THE ATMOSPHERE. THE SURVEY INDICATES THAT WITH THE VAST POPULATION INCREASE THAT NOW SEEMS INEVITABLE, THE PEOPLE LIVING IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, ALONG WITH OTHER TROUBLES, MAY ALSO FACE THE THREAT OF CLIMATIC CHANGE BROUGHT ABOUT BY AN UNCONTROLLED INCREASE IN ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE FROM FOSSIL FUELS.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Vol 114, No 1, PP 10-17, 9 FIG, 1 TAB, 17 REF
  • Corporate Authors:

    American Philosophical Society

    Symposium on Atmospheric Pollution
    Philadephia, PA  USA  19106
  • Authors:
    • Keeling, C D
  • Publication Date: 1970-2-16

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00223149
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 27 1970 12:00AM