Carbon Dioxide: Friend or Foe?

I’m currently writing up a section in my thesis about carbon dioxide. In summary, it does not paint a pretty picture, but that’s not news to any of us! We all know carbon dioxide has been on the rise since the beginning of the industrial era (see resources below). We all know that carbon dioxide is a key player in climate change. However, is all carbon dioxide bad? Absolutely not! For example, plants require carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, then they release oxygen, which we humans need to breathe. There are many natural sources of carbon dioxide, such as:

  • animal exhalation
  • forest fires
  • the final breakdown product of organic compounds in the atmosphere (chemicals that primarily contain carbon).

carbon dioxide oxygen cycle

The real problem with carbon dioxide is human activity (and I mean activities other than exhaling!), which has increased carbon dioxide levels by more than 140% since the pre-industrial era! Just remember, that naturally carbon dioxide is our friend. It isn’t carbon dioxide’s fault that it is helping climate change along. It’s ours.


Interesting Resources:

Changes in CO2 up to the industrial era by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Measured global and monthly averages of CO2 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)



Image of Parts per million of carbon dioxide is from NASA via Wikimedia Commons

Carbon oxygen cycle image is © Chemicals Are Your Friends.

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