Without CO2 concentrated in the atmosphere, life as we know it couldn’t exist; plants, algae, and cyanobacteria use light energy to photosynthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water, and in exchange deliver food and oxygen. When the carbon cycle is in balance the CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants producing oxygen, carbon outputs and carbon absorption are running relatively even.
But the human factor distorted this harmony; our production and consuming habits, have added CO2 in excess that isn’t being recycled and reused throughout the biosphere. On one hand, we have increased direct CO2 emissions, for example, by burning fossil fuels or by the calcination of limestone for cement production, on the other hand, we have changed the terrestrial and oceanic biosphere which lowered the ecosystems’ ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Let’s imagine the planet earth as a human body; a healthy body is able to break down food molecules and store them as energy for many different functions, including breathing, circulating blood, repairing cells and all other bodily functions; but adding too many calories results in weight gain and serious health threats.
Now think of the calories for the human body as the CO2 for planet earth: If our planet receives more CO2 than what its system is able to transform into, it has two options to keep the balance: either burn out the extra calories (exercise) or reduce the consumption of new calories (diet). That’s why as humankind we need urgently to reduce and remove the extra CO2 emissions expelled to the atmosphere because it is already causing health issues to the Earth.
According to the State of the Climate in 2018 report from NOAA and the American Meteorological Society, CO2 levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years. The excess of CO2 matters because it is a greenhouse gas that absorbs and radiates heat, without this natural greenhouse effect, the Earth would freeze; but increases in greenhouse gases have tipped the Earth’s energy budget out of balance, trapping additional heat and raising dangerously Earth’s average temperature. So, let’s help the planet we are living on to reduce the excess and get this closer to a healthy balance.