Carbon Dioxide Warning Labels are safety warnings found on gas pumps, home heating oil invoices and contracts, and electricity bills that warn people at the time of purchase that the use of the fuel will increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and make the planet increasingly unsuitable to life. Such labels remind people that the decision they are now making is contributing to changes in weather patterns, droughts, the extinction of species and the collapse of ecosystems. These labels can remind people at the time of such a purchase that carbon levels have not been this high in the last 800,000 years and that the planet’s atmospheric conditions are increasingly like those of past extinction periods. With this information a person is aware of their individual role and the implications of the decisions. It also reminds a person of the existence of the option not to make the purchase.
Carbon Dioxide Warning Labels are consistent with the health and safety disclosures commonly found on other products.
Greenhouse gasses are the thermostat (or an important part of it) of the planet. Dial up the greenhouse gasses and the planet’s temperature goes up. Dial them down and the planet’s temperature goes down.
The pre-Industrial Revolution thermostat setting was relatively stable for the last 15 million years and set the conditions that made it possible for many of the planet’s current species to exist. A change in that thermostat setting and the planet’s temperature will change what species can survive on the planet.
So greenhouse gasses are an important element of the current biosphere and a foundation for life on the planet.
Greenhouse gasses make the atmosphere function like a greenhouse by holding a certain amount of heat from the sun (much of the heat from the sun is reflected back into space). This ability to store heat makes the temperature of the planet’s surface conducive to many forms of life.
Since the Industrial Revolution homo sapiens have increasingly relied on the burning of carbon (wood, coal, oil, gas) and since the beginning have dumped the waste product (CO2) of this activity into the atmosphere. This dumping of CO2 waste into the atmosphere continues today and at higher levels each year. Currently, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are higher than there were for the last 800,000 to 15 million years. As a result the planet is now in the early phases of another mass extinction. This extinction is being called the Holocene extinction (current rates of extinction are estimated to be 10,000 times higher than a typical species extinction rate) and resembles, in terms of the changes to the atmosphere, the Permian-Triassic extinction event.
See this short video primer and this explanation of the role of greenhouse gasses in the biosphere.
This is the amount of carbon dioxide now in the atmosphere. The levels of carbon dioxide have not been this high for 800,000 years according to one study and 10 to 15 millions years according to another, when the planet was profoundly different from the way it is today.