Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: plenty of CO2

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 08/31/2018
Q:
I've read in a science article that rising CO2 levels are making the Earth greener and greener since CO2 is like food to plants. What would happen if trees and plants are growing on a massive scale but future generations cut back our CO2 production to what they were say in 1900? Could all the extra foliage on Earth consume so much CO2 that we would lose our greenhouse effect and plunge Earth in an oxygen catastrophe that would suddenly resume our current ice age? It seems like playing with the Earth's climate is like pushing a big boulder over the mountain top : it takes some time but once it is over the edge, we completely lose control over it while it is coming crashing down not knowing where it will utimately land.
- Anonymous
A:

Changes in CO2 concentration are quite persistent. Based on the geologic record, changes trickle away over times ranging from hundreds of years to over one thousand. (It's not a simple exponential pattern with a single time constant.) The change that's too fast for natural evolution and human civilization to keep up with is the drastic increase from our dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. There's no danger of a rapid decrease. 

Mike W.


(published on 08/31/2018)

Follow-up on this answer.