Atmospheric carbon dioxide: A little perspective, please

When President Biden was sworn into office, crude oil was selling for forty dollars a barrel or less.  The price was reasonably stable, and gasoline and diesel were affordable for most drivers.  Biden came into office preaching the benefits of clean energy and stopped the new drilling on and leasing of federal lands to promote it.  As a result, the United States went from being an exporter of crude oil and natural gas to an importer, with a large source of imported oil being Russia.  As the supply tightened, producers raised the price, and the crude that was selling for forty dollars a barrel when Biden took office has been selling for up to one hundred and thirty dollars a barrel, and the price of fuels has increased proportionately.  The cost of shipping goods has increased to reflect this cost of fuel, which has given the United States a problem with inflation.

Biden has said he can't do anything about solving the problem he caused, by stopping drilling on federal land.  It is not a matter of him being unable to do anything.  It is a matter of him not wanting to because he believes the carbon dioxide from the exhaust of vehicles burning gasoline is causing global warming.  This is what he has been told, not a conclusion he has the knowledge to arrive at on his own.

In 1900, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 275 ppm (parts per million of volume).  With all of the industrialization and increased use of motorized vehicles that occurred in the hundred years leading up to 2000, the carbon dioxide concentration increased to 400 ppm.  This was an increase of forty five percent which sounds tremendous, but it should not be forgotten that forty five percent of a small value is a small value.  In percent composition of the atmosphere the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from two hundred and seventy-five ten thousandths of one percent of the volume in 1900, to four hundred ten thousandths of one percent in 2000.

100X275/1,000,000 = 0.0275%

100X400/1,000,000 = 0.0400%

Model of CO2 molecule (credit: Jynto public domain).

Either of these concentrations would be considered a trace amount.  If it was desired to demonstrate these quantities, a million cubic feet would be a cube 100 ft wide, 100 ft long, and 100 ft high.  A cube containing all of the carbon dioxide of a million cubic feet of air containing 275 ppm carbon dioxide would measure 6.5 ft x 6.5 ft x 6.5 ft and a cube containing all of the carbon dioxide from a million cubic feet of air containing 400 ppm would measure 7.37 ft x 7.37 ft x 7.37 ft.  Although these values are correct, many people understand values better if they are placed on a linear scale.  Look at the values when shown as part of a familiar distance, a mile (5,280 ft).

One millionth of a mile: 5,280 ft /1,000,000 = 0.00528 ft

275 ppm of a mile: 275 X 0.00528 ft = 1.452 ft 

125 ppm of a mile: 125 X 0.00528 ft = 0.66 ft 

400 ppm of a mile: 400 X 0.00528 ft = 2.112 ft

Remember that these values represent the accumulation of carbon dioxide over one hundred years.  If anyone has run any repeatable tests showing the effects of carbon dioxide concentration on heat retention, they haven't been widely published.  Calculated values or models generally predict higher temperatures for higher concentrations of carbon dioxide than measured temperatures support and are less than convincing about the predicted correlation between the increase of carbon dioxide concentration and the temperature.

If the air contains 400 ppm of carbon dioxide, the other  999,600 ppm of the atmosphere consist of other gases, primarily nitrogen and oxygen.  This means there are 2,499 cubic feet of the other gases for every cubic foot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  It is unrealistic to assume that one cubic foot of carbon dioxide could assume enough heat from sun light to heat 2,499 cubic feet of atmosphere even one degree and it certainly couldn't raise the atmospheric temperature as much as the green fanatics claim.

1,000,000 ppm - 400 ppm = 999,600 ppm

999,600 / 400 = 2,499 ppm

People worry about the effect of accumulating more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels.  The rate of accumulation doesn't appear to be accelerating and in fact may be slowing slightly.  In the period from 2000 to 2020, the concentration in the atmosphere only increased from 400 ppm to 420 ppm or about 1.0 ppm per year.  If the concentration continued to increase at the same rate as it did last century, it is doubtful that it would have any effect in the next hundred years other than increasing plant growth.  Carbon dioxide has little or no effect on people at concentrations less than 5% or 50,000 ppm.  It is unlikely that the atmospheric concentration will ever reach that level, if we assume that CO2 is increasing at 1 ppm per year, as it would take 76.8 centuries to reach 1.0% or 10,000 ppm.

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