How Long Does CO2 Stay In The Atmosphere?
how long does co2 stay in the atmosphere

How Long Does CO2 Stay In The Atmosphere?

By Michael Mahler

With all the talk about global warming and greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, one of the questions that arises is: “How long does CO2 stay in the atmosphere?” Carbon dioxide can actually stay in the atmosphere anywhere from 300 to 1,000 years

While it is true that this question has somewhat of a simple answer to it, the in-depth explanation of why this is the answer is a bit more complicated. This is something that has been studied for many years, and continues to be studied to this day.

Why does carbon dioxide stay in the atmosphere for so long?

This is another question that often arises in conversations about climate and carbon sequestration. Carbon dioxide is actually an essential part of the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is used in the atmosphere to control the Earth’s surface temperature. Carbon dioxide absorbs a lot of the heat that is being emitted to the Earth, and then re-emits it to Earth.

While this is a good thing, the excess amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making it so more and more heat is being re-emitted at once, hence making the Earth’s surface temperature much hotter. Of course, if we were to reverse the situation, a little to no amount of carbon dioxide would be detrimental to the Earth, as there would be an adverse effect and oceans would freeze over. It is clear that carbon dioxide is very essential for the Earth’s atmosphere, but the question then arises, how much Co2 is the right amount? 

How much CO2 would be the right amount in the atmosphere?

It is common knowledge at this point that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is too much. There are many studies on how much would actually be sufficient to the Earth, but they all usually fall within the same short range. It is said that 280 ppm is the ideal level of CO2 in the atmosphere for sustaining human life. The amount of carbon dioxide that is currently in the atmosphere is 416 ppm. With that extremely high number, it is going to be a process to get it down to the ideal 280 ppm.

Researchers say that the first step should be to reach at least 350 ppm, and go from there. Even going down to 350 ppm is a difficult task, but it would be a great first step in reversing emissions. It has been stated that it is virtually impossible to go back and fix what has happened quickly, because the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere must be scaled up. It will take time for the carbon removal to make an effect and actually have some sort of result. With this being said, it is also very important to take action now, because the quicker that we start, the better. 

What does carbon dioxide do in the atmosphere?

This is a very common question when talking about the atmosphere and carbon emissions. Though we touched on the subject earlier, it is very important to know what the purpose is. As stated earlier, carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere and then emits it to warm the Earth’s surface. An increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing the Earth’s temperatures to increase, because the more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the more heat that will be emitted.

Carbon dioxide is very essential for life on Earth, but can also become detrimental if there is too much. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is already at the most that there has been seen in human history, and that is caused mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, which emits carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This has been an ongoing problem for many decades now, and adjustments are currently being made to lessen the amount of fossil fuels being burned. One example of such is the mass production and advertisement of electric vehicles. This product is one of the many examples of adjustments that are being made today.

It is also important to understand that carbon dioxide is essential for the Earth’s atmosphere. Without carbon dioxide, oceans would freeze over, and life would not be sustainable at all on Earth. While it is our goal to get the level of CO2 in the atmosphere down to 350 first, it must not reach too low of a number, because that may leave us with a bigger problem at hand than we currently have. 

How long does CO2 stay in the atmosphere?

Whether we’re in the position of wanting to reduce it, add more, or keep the same amount, understanding how long carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere is crucial to know. Even though it is already mentioned above that carbon dioxide usually lasts for a few centuries in the atmosphere, it is also said that about 25 percent of carbon emissions will last forever in the atmosphere unless actively removed.

While this may be alarming, it should also be a bigger motivator on why there needs to be action for carbon renewal as soon as possible. It can be hard to understand just how long exactly carbon dioxide will last in the atmosphere, due to there being so many studies that say so many different things. It is hard to know which one is closest to being right when comparing all of them.

In 1995, it was said that carbon dioxide only lasts in the atmosphere for a range of 5-200 years, which is much different than the way a lot of researchers currently think. This was believed all the way up to 2001, so the fact that this was only 20 years ago should show just how much we still have to learn on the subject, and how much could possibly be changed when it comes to discoveries that are made. 

The Takeaway

The biggest take away is that the Earth has an excess amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and there needs to be action taken if we want there to be sustainable life in the future. It is clear that actions that have been taken in the past several years are just not enough to bring the carbon dioxide amount down.

One great way of doing this would be purchasing emission reversal which removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it so it won’t return. Planting trees has been a strategy of renewing carbon emissions for years, but sinking seaweed in the ocean is a much more effective and scalable way of doing so. Seaweed grows at a rate of 30 times as fast as trees on average, which can help with making the process of lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere faster. 

With your help, we can make a stand with carbon emission renewal and make Earth sustainable for future life.      

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