June 01, 2019

A Different Kind of Carbon Exchange

Mary Ellen Ternes

Ever since 1896, when global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations were just 290 parts per million (ppm) and Svante Arrhenius first published his calculations of increased global temperatures from increased CO2 concentrations due to fossil fuel combustion, the climate change focus has been on increased global temperature. With progress best characterized as two steps forward and one to two steps back, government policy to address the issue historically has focused on indirect CO2 impacts from rising temperatures (sea level rise, etc.) and, more recently, on chemical effects of absorption resulting in ocean acidification. Given our focus on preventing further increases of global ambient CO2 concentrations to control global temperatures, the implications of direct exposure to increased levels of CO2 rarely are discussed. But considering recent studies and challenges in controlling our indoor environments, perhaps more focus should be given to the direct biological impacts of higher chronic CO2 exposure.

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