Posts Tagged ‘fossil fuels’


Human and livestock respiration is not s significant contributor to increasing atmospheric CO2

October 1, 2010

A small minority of  skeptics need to simply disabuse themselves of the wrong-headed notions that either CO2 levels aren’t really rising; or if they are, then it is not due to human activity.  

Let’s be clear about this:
1. CO2 has been increasing for a hundred years, and that increase is due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels.
2. Human and livestock respiration is not a contributor to increasing atmospheric CO2.  

I am an anthropogenic catastrophic global warming skeptic.  But I wish that small minority of the skeptics would get their facts straight about those two points. 

I could do a lot of math, which is my habit, to make my point, but in this case a picture says a thousand equations…. 


Plant and animal respiration are part of a cycle in which the biosphere, the atmosphere and the oceans exchange carbon.  This continuous exchange had been in quasi-equilibrium for thousands of years before the industrial revolution.  Most all of the carbon that you, your livestock, and your crops exhale (yes, even plants produce CO2 when they are not photosynthesizing) into the atmosphere came out of the atmosphere in the first place.  And it didn’t come out of the atmosphere very long ago – probably less than a few years ago.  So, respiration does not lead to any real increase in atmospheric CO2. 

But when you burn fossil fuels, you are adding new CO2 to the atmosphere.  Yes, it also was originally removed from the atmosphere, but that was millions of years ago.   The CO2 from fossil fuels changes the current quasi-equilibrium.  The increase in atmospheric CO2 that has occurred over the last century is due almost entirely to human activity (primarily the burning of fossil fuels).  

Others have written long expositions  (or here, here, and here) on these points, but I’m afraid their valiant attempts to bludgeon the point home may result in complicating the obvious for those who will not hear. 

The idea is simple and obvious.  Without human activity (primarily burning fossil fuels) the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is in quasi-equilibrium, like an old bucket where the water from a faucet flows in at the same rate the water flows out through the holes…

Atmospheric CO2 in quasi-equalibrium.

But when you start dripping a little extra water into the top of the bucket, the level will rise until a new equilibrium is reached.  Burning fossil fuels is like dripping more CO2 into the atmosphere.   This is true even if the CO2 added every year is a drop in the bucket compared the movement of CO2 through the entire complex atmosphere-biosphere-ocean system. Slowly the level rises. 

CO2 from fossil fuels causes atmospheric CO2 to increase.

The details may interest you or bore you, but it is senseless to argue these basic facts.  Anyone who wants to convince others that the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is exaggerated must be realistic about these fundamentals to be taken seriously.