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Chemical Processes: Carbon Emissions

One of the most hotly contested global issues of the day is global warming. There are a
number of discourses relating to our ability to influence climate change as well as questions
regarding what exactly our responsibility towards the environment is. Many of those in favor of
regulations to protect the environment allude frequently to a need to limit our carbon footprint.
The layman may not understand what exactly a carbon footprint is and almost certainly has no
idea how this might have an adverse effect on environmental change. Chemistry and general
modern science make it clear however that there most certainly exists a correlation between our
carbon footprint and environmental change, especially global climate change.
A carbon footprint is the amount of green house gases that are produced in order to
sustain human activity. Much of what we do requires the use of energy and many of the methods
by which we create energy release Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. A carbon
footprint is typically measured by the amount of CO2 that a certain action releases into the air.
All organic combustion reactions release Carbon Dioxide into the air. Thus anything that is
powered by such reactions including automobiles as well as coal burning power plants release
CO2 into the atmosphere. There are other sources of CO2 production inherent to the environment
which though they also increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere are not considered as a
part of our carbon footprint as they result from natural causes.
Carbon is not the only gas responsible for global warming. There are a number of gases
commonly referred to as greenhouse gases which affect the environment. Some other greenhouse
gases are methane and water vapor. These gases are also produced as a result of human activity.
Water vapor is also a product of all organic combustion reactions. These gases are differentiated

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from other gases and those that would naturally be more prevalent in our atmosphere by the fact
that they are more complex. They have more atoms per molecule and the bonding typically
allows for the atoms to move and store thermal energy.
The sun is responsible for providing thermal energy to earth. Heat travels from the sun to
the earth. The temperature of earth is a product of the amount of energy produced by the sun and
how much is absorbed into the earth or its atmosphere and how much is reflected back out into
space. Greenhouse gases alter the ration of heat reflected to absorbed. Because of their chemical
properties they absorb more heat and the result is a rise in the earths temperature.
In order to protect the climates which we now enjoy and ensure a sustainable future it is
vital that we mitigate our influence upon the Earths heating cycles. Greenhouse gases constitute
the greatest influence that we have on this system and as such need to be reduced. The obvious
conclusion is that in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we must reduce our carbon
footprint. This can be accomplished through alternative energy sources which do not produce
greenhouse gases or through limiting our energy consumption. If left unchecked greenhouse gas
emissions will lead to the earth absorbing a continually increasing amount of heat and leading to
drastic climate change.

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Works Cited:

"The Greenhouse Effect." UCAR Center for Science Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July
"Time for Change." What Is a Carbon Footprint. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2016.