The Source and Sink of CO2

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What came first; no, not the chicken or the egg, but oxygen or carbon dioxide? The world started out with more carbon dioxide and other gases, and very little oxygen. Oxygen didn’t come until plants gained a foothold and started producing it. Then the animals came and they started consuming the oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. For the most part. 

You may believe, from the headlines, that humans produce all of the CO2, and more, by burning fossil fuels.  But all animals, down to the smallest ant, produce CO2. It’s a fact of nature. Plants also release CO2 in addition to the oxygen they produce.

By far, the largest source of CO2, along with terrestrial (soil and vegetation), residual atmospheric CO2, and volcanic activity, are the oceans. Conservatively, these natural sources of CO2 combined account for approximately 97 percent of the CO2 available.

Carbon dioxide is both released and absorbed by the soil, vegetation, and oceans.  It is not easily sequestered (held in place). In fact, with warming, more CO2 is lost from the natural sources, and less is absorbed.

To be fair, supposedly, the amount of CO2 released by the oceans and terrestrial systems is in balance with what is absorbed; the small amount (approximately 3%) produced by burning fossil fuels accumulates (is not reabsorbed), again supposedly, thereby leading to the additional warming.

This begs the question: what came first; no, not the chicken or the egg, but CO2 or warming? If the earth has been warming since the last glacial period, as seen in the geologic record, it stands to reason that CO2 levels also would be increasing. This is the natural cycle.

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