CO2 and fossil fuels

Posted by Rocky Rex

Pygmy tyrannosaur Nanuqsaurus hoglundi

It’s actually a little easier to look at the impact of fossil fuels using coal as an example, but the principle applies to all fossil fuels.

A typical three-metre (10-foot) coal seam is estimated to have taken between 12,000 and 60,000 years to form –

Coal Formation

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/02/18/3691317.htm

Ancient trees and plants lived, died and were fossilised, having used carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over those millennia.

Some larger coal seams are, for example, 10 metres thick.

They took around 40,000 years to form but have been mined and burned in a little over 100 years.

We are time-warping vast amounts of ancient carbon (which we are combining with current oxygen) into our modern atmosphere.

Currently natural processes are absorbing about 50% of the (around) 35 billion tonnes of CO2 produced annually by human activities.

Carbon sinks

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20120801_esrlcarbonstudy.html

The rest are causing CO2 level in the atmosphere to rise at a rate of around 20 ppm per decade

CO2 in the atmosphere

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

The fastest rise seen in the ice core record (800,000 years) is 20 ppm in 1000 years.

CO2 in the ice core record

http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/bas_research/science_briefings/icecorebriefing.php

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