Some people think that carbon dioxide did not exist before the Industrial Revolution.
True or false?
The Industrial Revolution was getting into its stride by about 1800, and more and more carbon dioxide has been pumped into the atmosphere each year. Was there carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before then?
There can be no life without carbon dioxide: it has been in the atmosphere at least as long as there has been life on Earth. It is an essential part of photosynthesis and respiration. It is involved in limestone and seashell formation. It has always been an important part of the carbon cycle.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1800 was about 270 ppm (0.027% of the molecules in the atmosphere). In a sample containing 100 000 molecules there were only 27 molecules of carbon dioxide.
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing quickly: it is now 421 ppm (See Module 2707 The "enhanced greenhouse effect"). This is 50% higher than in 1800, but there are still only 42 carbon dioxide molecules for every 100 000 molecules in the atmosphere.
Could such small concentrations of carbon dioxide be significant in regard to what happens in our atmosphere? See Module 2703 So little CO2! Pffft? and Module 2704 Does CO2 affect Earth's energy balance?
LEARNING CHEMISTRY WITH UNDERSTANDING
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