Carbon and global warming: an overview

Carbon (from Latin: carbo, or charcoal) is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. Carbon takes several forms, or allotropes, the best-known being the hardest naturally-occurring substance, diamond, and one of the softest, graphite.

All known life on Earth is based on compounds of carbon. However, there is growing and increasingly persuasive evidence that excessive emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a gaseous compound produced by the burning and respiration of carbon-based fuel and foodstuffs, is significantly contributing to global warming.

Down-to-earth: some plain facts about carbon dioxide

  • A single gallon of petrol produces 19.4lbs of atmospheric CO2;
    a gallon of diesel emits 22.2lbs
  • Driving a car 3000 miles can produce a ton of CO2 – some six tons
    per year on average
  • Heating a single house annually produces around four tons of CO2,
    and another eight tons for electrical power
  • The electrical energy consumed by a sizeable refrigerator and
    a large plasma-screen TV is roughly equal at about 400 watts.
    That’s about 1,500lbs of CO2 in one year
  • The CO2 produced by air travel is more likely to affect climate
    change since the compound is released directly into the upper
    atmosphere, not at lower levels.