Monday, May 2, 2011

Why Some Gases Are Deadly Dangerous-CO2

The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.

To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

3. This article tells us why certain gases like carbon dioxide are deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why these gases shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.


Carbon Dioxide is beneficial to everything living.

It is necessary for plant life and photosynthesis. It is necessary for humans too as without CO2, the Earth would be too cold for life. This is how it heats up our planet. Carbon dioxide is completely transparent to sunlight and lets it pass through and strike the earth's surface. The sun’s light and warmth are partly absorbed by Earth but partly reflected back as infrared energy that radiates back into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is not transparent to infrared energy and it traps the heat on the surface of the planet like a blanket. The other gases that trap this infrared energy and warm our planet are nitrous oxide, water vapour and methane. Together with Carbon dioxide these gases are known as the greenhouse gases.
So if carbon dioxide does so much for us, why is it considered bad?

It isn’t carbon dioxide that is bad. It is just the excess carbon dioxide that has been released into our air due to human activity.

For millions of years living vegetation has provided the balance by mopping up the excess CO2 during photosynthesis. But in recent years the cutting down of our forests has drastically reduced vegetation and as a result, there aren’t enough plants to mop up the excess CO2 from our air.

Also, we use a lot of fossil fuels like coal and oil which have been buried deep into the Earth for millions of years. In the last few hundred years our level of dependence on these fossil fuels has increased exponentially. We bring up these fossil fuels from deep inside the Earth and burn them for our factories, as petroleum for our automobiles, as oil or coal to heat up our homes and to cook. The carbon that is trapped inside these fossil fuels reacts with oxygen from the air to produce the heat we need. One of the by-products is carbon dioxide which is released into our air.

The number of people breathing our air has increased a million fold too due to increases in population.

Now the problem is obvious – for the above reasons, too much carbon dioxide is thrown into our atmosphere but not enough carbon dioxide is being removed.


How excess Carbon Dioxide affects the Earth

• With more and more infrared energy radiated back from our Earth trapped under the increased level of carbon dioxide, Earth is becoming warmer. This in turn causes changes in climate, currents, melting glaciers and ice caps. If enough ice melts, it could raise the sea level around the planet and low-lying coastal areas would become completely submerged.

• It disrupts our ocean currents which are caused by warm and cold waters meeting and mixing. With glaciers heating up and melting due to excess CO2 in the air, the difference between the cold and warm waters is greatly reduced.

• It increases the acidity of the oceans, which may interfere with the amount of oxygen that ocean life produces (the oceans are a far more important source of oxygen than all the plants on land).

By affecting the Earth, excess carbon dioxide harms everything living.


How excess CO2 directly affects humans
• Increased levels of CO2 in the air causes nausea, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, stiffness and a terrible odour. These reasons alone are worth human beings monitoring their activities to keep the level of CO2 in the atmosphere at the normal of 350 to 450 ppm. Right now it is too much more.


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