Carbon Dioxide and Your Health

By Melanie Stewart

As we use fossil fuels for energy, buildings, cars, and homes emit carbon, mostly as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), into the atmosphere and the carbon cycle begins.  The ocean absorbs about 30% of the emitted CO2.  The amount varies based on what is available, atmospheric pressure, and wind turbulence.  As levels in the atmosphere have increased, the ocean has taken in more CO2, which in turn makes the ocean more acidic, causing problems for ocean plants and animals. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that ocean acidification will continue to get worse.

Plants take up 25% of the CO2 that is emitted by humans through photosynthesis releasing the oxygen (O2) and storing the carbon(C). As humans tear down forests, this creates a negative feedback loop. The more trees and forests that are cut down results in less plants available to absorb the CO2.   It stays in the atmosphere which causes the earth to heat up more, which contributes to droughts and plants drying out, which causes forest fires to burn more extremely, and causes the carbon that was stored in the tree/plant to be released into the atmosphere.

The rest of the emitted CO2 (45%) will remain in the atmosphere.  The ocean has a limit on what it can absorb and deforestation limits the availability of plants to absorb it.  Essentially, the more CO2 we emit, the more CO2 stays in the atmosphere.   This is the leading cause of climate change, and it’s also bad for human health.  CO2 is a pollutant and it, along with other fossil fuel emissions, are harming human heath, and killing more people each year.

Don’t despair, you can help reduce emissions!  You can:

Click on the links for tips to get started and/or to learn more.  These steps will almost always save you money and some will improve your physical and mental health.  Your actions add up and can influence others, increasing the impact.

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