Why Carbon?We owe our presence on Earth to carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. It helped stabilize temperatures to levels suitable for organic life. It did this – and continues to do it – by what is known as the greenhouse effect. This occurs when heat energy from the sun passes unimpeded through the atmosphere and warms up the Earth. In turn, the Earth radiates this energy back towards space. The greenhouse gases – water vapor (the main greenhouse gas), methane, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and CO2 – absorb some of this energy and emit it in all directions, including back towards Earth. As a result the Earth’s surface is about 34ºC warmer.Over millions of years, the Earth has managed to regulate concentrations of greenhouse gases through a system of sources and sinks. Carbon (in the form of CO2 and methane) is emitted by volcanoes, by rotting vegetation and other organic matter. But CO2 is sequestered, or absorbed, by trees (their roots, branches, trunks and leaves are about 50 per cent carbon), plankton, soils and water bodies. Indeed, scientists have become aware that increased concentrations of CO2 actually stimulate the growth of many different types of plant, including… Read full this story
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