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Published on November 27th, 2012 | by Simi

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Crisis call on climate

A Courier Mail article entitled “Crisis call on climate” contained an estimate that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, 350 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide CO2 have been released through the burning of fossil fuels.

A substantial portion of this greenhouse gas has been absorbed by vegetation and dissolved in the oceans, and spread throughout the atmosphere. Assume however, that this was not so, and that all of this gas, being heavier than air, had settled to form a blanket of pure CO2 covering the Earth’s surface. How thick would this blanket be?

This is worth having a wild guess at, before you do any calculations, just for fun!

You will have to use a little Chemistry. One mole of any gas occupies about 23L or 0.023m3 of space under the average atmospheric conditions of the earth’s surface. One mole of CO2 weighs about 44 grams.

Extension
Another news report gave the total CO2 production by China and the USA in 2006 as 12,000 million tonnes. Repeat the calculation above to find the thickness of this blanket.

 

Reference: ‘Crisis call on climate’, The Courier Mail, 16 February 2009

Question created by Robert Nelder, Toowoomba State High School

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