Letter: Global warming is happening now
Consider this: It seems impossible that a gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6.3 pounds, could produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned. However, most of the weight of the CO2 doesn’t come from the weight of the gasoline itself, but from oxygen in the air.
When gasoline burns, the carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water (H2O), and the carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. (CO2).
A carbon atom has a weight of 12, and each oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of CO2 an atomic weight of 44 (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).
Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline, the weight of the carbon in the gasoline is multiplied by 44/12 or 3.7.
Since gasoline is about 87 percent carbon and 13 percent hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gas weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 pounds x .87).
We can multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, which equals about 20 pounds of CO2.
My 36 mpg Honda puts approximately 200 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every time I drive to Denver and back. CO2 sticks around, some people say five years, some people say 200 years. The natural mechanisms that capture and convert CO2 are being compromised. Forests are dying due to drought and disease and oceans are becoming acidic.
Picture all those cars, all those trips, all those years, in combination with power plants, various manufacturing processes, airplanes (the worst) lawnmowers, leaf blowers, ATVs, motor boats, farm equipment etc. All this CO2 along with methane and other greenhouse gases creates a layer that no longer lets solar radiation be reflected back into space, hence warming. We all know that warm air holds more moisture than cooler air. This warmer air supercharges our storms if there is water around or, it just causes terrible heat. As we dump carbon from piggish pickups, overheated and under-insulated houses and my Honda into the atmosphere, we assure ourselves that the effects will be in the far future. They are happening now.
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