Adjust Text Size
Media Center

Media Center

Rep. Edward J. Markey, Chairman - Stay Connected with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and RSS Feeds
The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Why Are We Worried About Carbon In The Air?

The Washington Post, April 24, 2008

In this April 24 article, Dan Stillman addresses the question of why more carbon in the atmosphere is a problem.

  • Many scientists say there's a very good chance that too much carbon in the air is causing a dangerous rise in Earth's temperature
  • Over time, the dead plants and animals mixed together and became buried deeper and deeper below the ground or ocean floor. Eventually, the resulting pressure and heat changed the mixture into solid (coal), liquid (oil) and gas (natural gas) materials.
  • Not only could fossil fuels run out some day, but when coal, oil or natural gas are burned, many of the freed carbon atoms bond with two oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide, or CO2
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific group affiliated with the United Nations, says the chance is greater than 90 percent that this extra carbon dioxide in the air is responsible for much of Earth's rising temperatures since the mid-1950s.
  • Energy can also be captured from the sun, wind and flowing water. These and other "clean" energy sources put less carbon in the air, and we don't have to worry about running out of them.


Why Are We Worried About Carbon In The Air?
By Dan Stillman

Carbon is called the building block of life. All living things are made of carbon -- it is in the air, in plants and animals, even inside you. Carbon is the fourth most abundant element known to naturally occur on Earth, after hydrogen, helium and oxygen.

Carbon atoms are constantly moving among the ground, atmosphere, ocean and living things. But the total amount of carbon in the world never changes. Many scientists say there's a very good chance that too much carbon in the air is causing a dangerous rise in Earth's temperature.

This warming is melting polar ice and changing where plants and animals live. Continued warming is likely to cause weather to be more extreme and sea levels to rise. Some of the potential impacts could be positive, but most probably will be negative, experts say.

Carbon as Energy

We rely on carbon as a source of energy -- allowing us to turn on lights, run machines and computers, and make automobiles and airplanes go. Most of this energy is created by burning coal, oil or natural gas. These are called fossil fuels, because they are the remnants of plants and animals that died millions of years ago.

To read the complete story, please CLICK HERE.

Return to Articles »

 Print This Page