|Life on earth
depends on the cycling of carbon and energy. Plants take carbon dioxide from
the atmosphere, lakes, and oceans to manufacture their food using water and
energy from light. Plants - and animals - use that carbon carrying food as an
energy source. Humans have learned how to recover fossil fuels. We are
recycling them by burning them in power plants, planes, trains, and
automobiles to release carbon dioxide and water vapor to the atmosphere.
Their carbon content is thus returned to the cycle of life. The whole complex
process is driven by flows of energy.
|This figure from
the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides
a quantitative overview of the carbon cycle.
gas “problem” is boldly stated here in the red boxes and circles as driven by
fossil fuels. 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon are added to the atmosphere
|Note that the
atmosphere contains some 700 billion tonnes of carbon. Living plants store
about 500 billion tonnes. The fossil fuel total 3300 billion tonnes. Soils hold about 2000 billion tonnes and
oceans some 40,000 billion tonnes.
Some 100 million billion tonnes is incorporated in sedimentary rocks.
These stores are all products of
|We need to look
at the cycle in some more detail to see if there might be clues to useful