Science VS podcast explains how burning fossil fuel is differentiated from natural CO2 in the atmosphere
Quite a simple explanation for something I never thought of. Lots of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere but how do climate scientists work out what is there from burning fossil fuels. It's probably not foolproof but close enough for arriving at trends analysis. The link below is to the full podcast which covers the topic more broadly.
Here is a text excerpt though for those that want the quick answer:
Chris basically tells us that there are different types of carbon out there. And this might be surprising... But there’s carbon that’s not radioactive, and carbon that is radioactive.
Now… anything on the Earth’s surface with carbon in it… has both kinds of carbon in it. It’s got the radioactive kind, and the non-radioactive kind. So, yes, you and me, we’re all a little bit radioactive. And so are all the plants and the animals that you see around you.
But. There’s something that has practically no radioactive carbon in it: and that’s fossil fuels. Why? Because… fossil fuels are made of dead animals and plants that have been buried... for millions of years…
And during that time… the radioactive carbon inside of them slowly disappears. After millions of years… it’s pretty much gone.
So when we burn oil and gas and coal today... they basically don't have radioactive carbon left in them... just that other kind of carbon...
So when scientists like Ralph measures samples of air, they finds lots of carbon that doesn't have any radioactivity... meaning… it’s carbon that's been smooshed beneath the earth's surface for millions of years.
And that's how scientists know whether carbon in the air is from burning fossil fuels rather than the planet breathing.
Listen at https://pca.st/Z4El#t=13m43s
|Election Special: Climate Change - Science Vs
Recently we've been warned that climate change is scarier than ever -- and that we are to blame. Yet surveys find around half of Americans don't think climate change is caused by humans. So how does science know that? And how bad will climate change get? Science Vs has brought this episode up to date so you have the facts for next week's midterm elections.Check out the transcript with all the citations, right here.