The Earth’s surface can support life because it has water, and it is in a very narrow temperature “sweet spot”, at which water can be both liquid and solid (ice). This temperature is maintained by the atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is the main gas in the atmosphere which controls global temperature by the Greenhouse Effect. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have been relatively steady for over 400,000 years, but recently humans began increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the greenhouse effect, warming the earth. This leads to increased global temperature, sea level rise, desertification, decreased (and sometimes increased) precipitation, and a unbalancing of a relatively steady system dynamic.
The key to understanding how human’s are changing the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is to understand the global carbon cycle.
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