Life from an outsider's perspective…

Volume of CO2 emmissions compared to the total volume of our atmosphere:

Volume of CO2 emmissions compared to the total volume of our atmosphere:

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who thinks that our way of life doesn’t affect the environment (climate included) is an idiot. Sorry, but some people still continue believe that we can spew as much CO2 into the air as we want and it will have no long-term effect on the Earth’s climate. You only need to look at exactly how much CO2 is produced by man:

Since 1751 roughly 315 billion tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these emissions have occurred since the mid 1970s. The 2004 global fossil-fuel CO2 emission estimate, 7910 million metric tons of carbon, represents an all-time high and a 5.4% increase from 2003.

People talk of gas emmissions in terms of mass, which understates the quantity… Rolling Eyes But exactly how much space does 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupy? You only need to look at molar volumes of gases:

1 tonne = 1 million grams.
44g of CO2 = 1 mole = 24.5L of gas (at 25ºC and standard atmospheric pressure)
Therefore, just 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupies 557 thousand litres. (= 22.7 kmoles or 557 m3)

Taking the figure above, annual global CO2 emmission at 7910 million metric tons (7,910,000,000), multiply that by the volume occupied by one tonne (557,000), and we come up with 4.4 THOUSAND TRILLION LITRES OF CO2 GAS PRODUCED EVERY YEAR.

We spew 4,400,000,000,000,000 litres of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere every single year.

We do not live in an infinite space, not in area, nor in volume. Yes, gravity sucks back all those CO2 molecules to planet earth. So I take the thickness of the atmosphere, from wikipedia:

Three quarters of the atmosphere’s mass is within 11 km of the planetary surface. 99.99997% of the atmosphere by mass is below 100 km.

And the Earth’s total surface area from another source:

The total area of the Earth is approximately 510 million square kilometers.

My ultra quick calculation of volume of Earth’s atmosphere, up to 100km (yes let’s include all of it) = 51 trillion trillion cubic metres or 51,000 trillion trillion litres. That includes the atmosphere, the stratosphere, the troposphere, the mesosphere -yes, the entire fucking quota.

It appears some people claim that we can produce that much CO2 gas, 4.4 THOSAND TRILLION LITRES EVERY SINGLE YEAR, and it no way affects the limited volume of ‘our own’ atmosphere (51,000 trillion trillion litres)!!! That’s equivalent to an increase of 86 parts per billion CO2 gas every single year.

A few points:

  1. Of course, much of these emmissions are recycled into oxygen by trees and plants during photosynthesis. But while we continue to cut those down that won’t help us with our CO2 problem!!
  2. The upper atmosphere, the stratosphere, is extremely low pressure & doesn’t actually “hold” much gas.
  3.  CO2 is 1.5 times denser than air.
  4. Using other estimates of the mass of the Earth’s atmosphere (5 quadrillion metric tonnes) used in the above calculation results in an increase in CO2 concentration of 1.6ppm per year!
  5. The world’s oceans can also dissolve some  CO2, acting like a large reservoir. But here again, there is a limit to how much seawater can take.

Do I even need to elucidate my calculations further????? People claim that our  CO2 production has no affect on our precious environment, not even cumulatively! And as an ex-research scientist, that mode of thinking enrages me. Evil or Very Mad

global average temperature last century

global warming predictions

15 Responses to “Volume of CO2 emmissions compared to the total volume of our atmosphere:”

  1. This is a thotough piece of work. Good post

  2. Then why, pray tell, has the international community not imposed restrictions on Chinese and Indian emissions of greenhouse gases?

  3. I was looking for data and came across your calculations and thought I would offer the following for comment; my math and logic was streatched a bit.

    I coouldn’t find how many tonnes of CO2 are in the atmoshere in the first place. (All the source figures I wanted were in Wikipedia but I couldn’t find that one anywhere).

    To avoid changing density issues I used the diameter of the earth (12,472 km) and atmospheric presure (10.2 tonnes sq metre) and got
    4,984,507,442,800,230 tonnes gas total.

    Using relative atomic weights for O2, N2 and CO2 and concentrations of 290,840 – 780,840 – 383 I worked out a figure for CO2 as 1,251,822,758,391.97 (assuming only these 3 gases present).

    I also offer it up as what you have calculated are absolute values for additions but I wanted to understand what the absolute amounts are in the first place.

    Couple of other things:

    There seems to be assumtion that a doubling of CO2 will double its effect but who said, it could change either way? That’s next on my list to track down.

    And we are now growing wine in the UK as far north as the romans did 2000 years ago which suggests temperatures haven’t changed quite as the graphs suggest. Hic!

  4. I graduated the University of Wisconsin with degrees in biology and chemistry. My skepticism on this subject directly relates to the fact that many of the scientists now claiming global warming were in the 1970s telling us that if we didn’t change our ways we would be heading into a mini ice age. While I do agree that we should do everything possible to reduce emissions, it is naive and vain to believe that humans alone are responsible. How has volcanic activity been figured into the equation? Statistics are like criminals – if you torture them enough they will tell you whatever you want to hear. Example – all people that ate pickles in 1890 are dead today so we should ban the sale and distribution of pickles for public safety and health.

  5. You are of course entitled to your opinion.

    But I actually think it’s naive that some humans are under the impression that we alone CAN’T be responsible. We are a global species, so why not? Is it simple a matter of some of us being too scared too accept this responsibility, so we deny that it’s our fault?

    I’ve got a post in draft form that covers this facet, albeit more succinctly. Stay tuned & thanks for your contribution Mr Skeptic!

  6. One part per billion (ppb): Denotes one part per 1,000,000,000 parts, one part in 109, and a value of 1 × 10–9. This is equivalent to 1 drop of water diluted into 250 chemical drums (50 m³), or one second of time in approximately 31.7 years.

    So by your calculations, we’re “dumping” an amount of CO2 into our atmosphere equivalent to “dumping” 86 drops of water in 250 chemical drums.

    Hardly seems like much at all….

  7. It all depends what are in those drums and what the reaction is, doesn’t it?

  8. According to data I have read, 90% of the C02 emitted into the atmosphere is from rotting vegetation. According to Popular Science Magazine, 98% of all living organisms on earth are plant matter. PS Magazine also stated in an article in the early 1990’s that O2 is on the rise. Has this really happened? I am not a scientist, I cannot confirm these numbers. Will anyone either confirm or refute these numbers and provide source data that confirms them?

  9. Why do you do selective dates. A scientic would know what looking at a small peice of a puzzle will never give you the full picture. Please explain the Jarasic time when the tempiture was alot hotter and then the massive cooling after it. Then the Medievel warming which was hotter then now and then the cooling right after that. Temputer is always changing up and down and the season are alway going from winter to summer or in other terms colder to warmer weather. Then explain how CO2 is less of a greenhouse gas then water vapor. Then after that explain how just looking at the CO2 as a toxic waste in the eyes of people and politicians in a good thing since we exchale it and other animals do too and planets take it and produce O2 for us to use.

  10. So you think rhat people who don’t believe in global warming are idiots
    well governments are winning elections on this fraud and i think your an isiot to be so gullible over 30,000 scientists and i am one think its alie and acon
    .03 % seeif you gow .o3 % and notice the difference also humans can live tolerate at up to 55
    your silly

  11. So just because governments are taking advantage of the situation means it’s not happening, right?

    I think you are gullible to believe that we as a human species CAN’T affect the environment. Who said we can’t? Is it like a physical impossibility or something? We should all learn to be more responsible than that.

    We’re worse than an infestation of cockroaches… look at how we’re urbanising the surface of the planet. You don’t think this can change the composition of the atmosphere direcly above us?

    Umm, by the way, I used to be scientist too you know. That’s where the “Doctor” part comes in. And you know what? We study things and then the goverment rejects or denies our findings. In a rapidly changing world, traditional science publications are too slow. I gave up my proffession because scientists don’t have all the answers. And for every problem they solve, another one is created.

  12. We need to think out of the box here.
    First: If I was God & I designed the earth I would have noticed a few million years ago that plants were struggleing to grow due to the entrapment of their only food CO2. The solution was to send down some critters that were smart enough to dig up coal, drill for oil & burn natural gas. Of course we needed it for warmth, transport, cooking & making stuff that reduces the amount of work we need to do to survive & enjoy life. After all apart from the three toed sloth we are the lazyest critter on the planet. That’s why we invented the wheel. Given a few more trillion tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere we might see plants surviving in places like the deserts that occupy the western side of nearly all major continents. A small increase in CO2 can increase the growth rate of most plants by 300%. Come on Jack & the beanstalk.

  13. Such stupid talk. You global warming deny-ers are the probably also evolution deny-ers. Stick your head in the sand and let multinational corporations rape the earth for profit. The math is simple, it is right in your face. Even more apparent are the effects on the earth; volatile weather experiences, climate change, melting polar ice caps, sea level rise, death of reefs, extinction of species regional droughts-the list goes on. Wake up.

  14. Most everyone seems to be missing the point. Imagine your 4 year old daughter came down with a red rash, sore throat, and a fever. You take her to the doctor who tells you they need to run some tests and will get back to you. After 3 days, the doctor calls you in and informs you that your daughter has a rare and fatal disease and the prognosis is 2 – 3 months. However, he then tells you that there is a group of experts that have dedicated their careers trying to find a cure, and that a year ago they started trials with a drug that seems to be working. He gives you their phone number and a prescription for some pain relief medicine. At the pharmacy you are telling all this to the pharmacist, and he tells you the doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He tells you it is nothing more than a vitamin deficiency and gives you a bottle of that vitamin and tells you she will be fine in 2 months if she takes the pills.
    If you are in any way arguing that the experts are wrong and that we should ignore them, you should not be a parent. If you vocally rebuke the experts, then you are risking the future of all of our grandchildren.
    In my opinion, we should take a poll of everyone’s stance on gcc. When the shit starts to hit the fan, and there will be only so many resources to go around, we will have a handy list of those that can be excluded due to lack of ethics.

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