Carbon: the back story
Carbon is an essential resource and one of the major building blocks for life. The climate problem arises when there is too much ‒ as a gas ‒ in the atmosphere.
Carbon is a shapeshifter and exists in:
1. Organic compounds
Carbon comes in various combinations with oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and other elements. These compounds build plants, fungi, microbes and animals – including us and the ‘once living’: such as wood, soil organic matter, peat and limestone (from seashells).
2. Pure solid forms
Carbon is what graphite and diamonds are made from (yep, diamonds!)
3. A gas
Carbon combines with oxygen to make carbon dioxide (CO2) and with hydrogen to make methane (CH4). Plants combine the gas carbon dioxide (CO2), with water and sunshine to make energy food (carbs) and life’s building blocks.
The carbon-based gases are also Earth warmers:
No atmospheric CO2 results in average global temperatures of around minus 18˚C (brrr).
Pre-industrial Revolution CO2 levels were around 280 parts per million (ppm). The average global temperature was about 13.6˚C (just right).
Today CO2 levels are 417 ppm and rising. The average global temperature is 15˚C which is getting too hot!