Why is Carbon Dioxide the Most Talked About Greenhouse Gas?
Carbon Dioxide is the Most Talked about Greenhouse Gas for Good Reason
There are only two greenhouses gases experts believe that are having the greatest impact on global warming. As a result of the temperature increases from these two greenhouse gases, the Earth’s climate is changing.
The first is methane. The other — the greenhouse gas doing the most damage — is carbon dioxide.
In research papers, scientific articles, and mass and social media, carbon dioxide is the most talked-about greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide is synonymous with greenhouse gases, global warming, and climate change.
There is one reason why: the staggering amount of CO2 emissions pumped into the atmosphere each year.
The billions of tons of carbon dioxide that spill into the atmosphere in the form of emissions is so large that it is unfathomable.
What Percentage of Greenhouse Gases Does CO2 Constitute?
According to Penn State professor and research scientist Virginia A. Ishler, carbon dioxide constitutes 84.6% of all emissions. Comprehension of the amounts of carbon dioxide emissions human activity spews into the atmosphere each year is impossible.
Even when measured in tons, the amount of CO2 human activities pump into the air per year absolutely unintelligible. A June 2017 New York Times article put the number at 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.
That means each day, human activity pumps 110.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
What is CO2’s Effect on Global Warming?
Global warming is a product of greenhouse gases trapping thermal heat between the lower layers of the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. Greenhouse gases reflect heat. Greenhouse gases do not, however, reflect solar energy.
That means solar radiation can enter the Earth’s atmosphere and pass through to the Earth’s surface unimpeded. But, greenhouse gases reflect the heat from the Earth’s surface back toward the surface as it rises.
In other words, solar energy can heat the Earth’s surface by passing through the atmosphere. But, the thermal heat from the Earth’s surface cannot escape back into space.
The effect: we are cooking ourselves.
How Long Does CO2 Stay in the Atmosphere?
Eleven million tons of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere today will remain there for the next 10,000 years. Twenty million tons of today’s CO2 emissions will be in the atmosphere for the next 1,000 years. Of all the CO2 emitted today, 40% will remain in the atmosphere for at least 100 years.
Today is one day out of the year. This year is one out of ten for the decade. Human activity has emitted CO2 into the air — at significant levels — since it began with the industrial revolution in 1751 and has grown exponentially since.
What (Who) are the Biggest Contributors to Atmospheric CO2?
CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017 states, “the fossil fuel industry has doubled its contribution to global warming by emitting as much greenhouse gas in 28 years as in the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution.”
Again, carbon dioxide accounts for 86% of all those emissions.
A mere 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is according to a 2017 report produced by the Carbon Majors Database and the Climate Accountability Institute.
“These [100 companies] have produced about 923 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalents between 1988 to 2016.” These companies are led by Saudi Aramco, Russian gas giant Gazprom, and Exxon Mobil according to the CMD.
What Types of Emissions Add to CO2?
There are five primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
• Agriculture accounts for 9% of all greenhouse gases.
• Commercial and residential amounts to 12%. “Greenhouse gas emissions from businesses and homes arise primarily from fossil fuels burned for heat.” But, “the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases and the handling of waste,” also contribute.
• Industry amounts to 21% of greenhouse gas emissions.
• Transportation is the catalyst for 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
• Electricity production — coal being the principal source — adds up to 29% of greenhouse gas emissions.
What Transportation Fuel Types Emit the Most Greenhouse Gases?
There is a constant debate with respect to which traditional transportation fuel — gasoline or diesel — pollutes the most. Whether it is gasoline or diesel, there are a variety of factors that determine how much a vehicle pollutes.
For example, at the Paul Scherrer Institute, near Zurich in Switzerland, scientists determined that “gasoline cars emitted on average 10 times more carbonaceous PM at 22°C and 62 times more at -7°C compared to diesel cars.”
The technologies associated with an engine also play a large role in the number of emissions a vehicle releases into the atmosphere. While older diesel engines polluted more than their gasoline counterparts, that is no longer the case.
Diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and pre-combustion catalysts (atomizers) can significantly reduce the number of emissions a diesel engine emits. The Rentar Fuel Catalyst, for example, reduces black smoke by up to 44% and greenhouse gases by 19%.
However, that does not tell the entire story. Even though the advent of catalytic converters has reduced the amount of emissions petrol vehicles emit, “Diesel fuel contains no lead and emissions of the regulated pollutants (carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides) are lower than those from petrol cars without a catalyst.”
Even petrol cars with catalytic converters are at a disadvantage for one simple reason. While the emissions from a single gallon of diesel are roughly equal to those from a gallon of gasoline, a diesel vehicle drives about 30% farther on a gallon than does its gasoline engine counterpart.
In other words, even if diesel engines emit 1% or 2% more greenhouse gases than a gasoline engine per gallon burned, per mile diesel engines emit third fewer greenhouse gases.
If carbon dioxide is the most dangerous greenhouse gas with respect to global warming and climate change — and it is — diesel engines with emissions-reducing technologies are one solution.