Atmospheric Carbon

Carbon is everywhere—in the food we eat, the homes we build, the clothes we wear, the fuels we use, and even the air we breathe. It moves through nature in cycles and through our economy as commodities, goods and ultimately waste.

This cycling of carbon matters. It matters because the right balance of carbon between the atmosphere, plants, animals, soils and oceans is central to the healthy functioning of habitats and ecosystems. Indeed, it is one of the necessary conditions for life on Earth.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also very important and acts like a blanket to keep heat in. Without it, the Earth would be a dead, frozen planet (like Mars). With too much of it, the Earth would become a pressure-cooker hot enough to melt lead (like Venus).

Fortunately for us the Earth has been doing a pretty good job of balancing carbon for millions of years to keep conditions ideal for the flourishing of life. But that could change.

As a result of increased emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen dramatically in just a few short centuries. Today, levels are higher than they have been for millions of years.

Science strongly shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are positively correlated with the Earth’s surface temperature.