Friday, October 30, 2009

Carbon dioxide: what it is, what it's doing, and what we can do about it - a Coastal Voices series

Coastal Voices series
Carbon dioxide: what it is, what it’s doing, and what we can do about it

This December, representatives from over 190 nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to hash out an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide. The timing is critical: scientists believe that the next decade will be our last, best chance to reduce emissions if we are to keep the climate from warming beyond an unacceptable level.

In addition to changing our climate, our carbon dioxide emissions are also making ocean water more acidic, and more corrosive to many marine animals with shells – an occurrence that is happening right now on the west coast, and which threatens the base of marine food webs.

Carbon dioxide is at the root of both climate change and ocean acidification – yet it is also a very common thing, so common that we exhale with every breath. Carbon dioxide is, in fact, essential to life. How can this be? How can it be both essential to life and threatening to life at the same time? And how can plain old carbon dioxide – an odorless, colorless gas that is all around us – be the cause of melting shellfish, spreading deserts, or threats to the national security of the most powerful nations on Earth?

We’ll dig into these questions, and more, over the next month in a five-part series on carbon dioxide, climate change, and ocean acidification, and what these issues mean for our region and for you. We’ll start at the most basic level – what is carbon dioxide and why is it an issue? – and work our way up to today’s most pressing concerns. Look for the first post early next week.

Part I: Carbon dioxide: the basics

· Why do people say that something that is essential to life is so dangerous for our future?

· Where does all of the extra carbon dioxide come from?

Part II: Carbon dioxide and climate change

· Why does more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to climate change?

· What does this mean for B.C. and Canada?

Part III: Carbon dioxide and ocean acidification

· How does more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere make ocean water corrosive to marine life?

· What does this mean for B.C. and Canada?

Part IV: What can we do?

· Why don’t we just remove it from the atmosphere?

· Wait - you mean I can’t really “offset” my carbon emissions?

· Won’t the problem be solved if we all become ‘carbon neutral’?

· So what can we truly do?

Part V: What is being done by Canada and the international community to reduce emissions of
carbon dioxide?

· Why is “Copenhagen” so important?

· How can we make our voices heard at Copenhagen?

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