CO2: Finally some recognition for a much maligned gas


If the carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage of the last fortnight has taught us nothing else, it has served up some welcome widespread awareness for the integral role of this invaluable gas in our everyday lives.

For decades, CO2 has rightly been much maligned for its negative environmental impact.

As the gas with by far the highest levels of emissions by volume, CO2 does, in absolute terms, have the greatest greenhouse effect. A naturally occurring chemical compound, CO2 is not only the product of respiration of all aerobic organisms, it is also produced as a result of industry, and the combustion of hydrocarbon-rich fossil fuels in particular. A by-product of so many fundamental processes, CO2 is a significant contributor to both global warming and ocean acidification. This often makes it something of a scapegoat in news headlines.

Yet few in the general public are aware that sulfur hexafluoride, for example, is almost 22,800 times more harmful to our environment than CO2. Or that nitrous oxide is nearly 300 times more harmful.

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