Carbohydrates (Climate series)

Carbon is a hero.  It is great stuff.  Here it is in the short and sweet.  While this is too simple for college bio-chemistry, you can understand global warming lies a little easier once you get this stuff.  Living things take carbon out of the air, dead things give it back.  (It’s not entirely that simple, though, because living things like bacteria and fungus give it back from the dead things.)

Carbohydrates (actually, hydrated carbons) are the foundation of all plant materials, made up entirely of carbon (mostly from carbon dioxide) and water.  Plants and trees grab CO2 from the air and water from the soil to form carbohydrates.  When carbohydrates respire (breath, or mix with oxygen) the process releases carbon dioxide and water.  Glucose, for instance, the simplest carbo- breaks down like this: C6H12O6 + 6O2  -->  6CO2 + 6H2O.  It’s just a reverse situation of growing.  Exactly the same thing happens when carbohydrates burn: carbon dioxide and water.

CO2 is not a poison, it is not toxic, won’t give you lung disease or kill plants or other animals.  Like water, too much causes drowning, not “water poisoning.” Similarly, too much carbon dioxide causes asphyxiation, not “CO2 poisoning.”

The only significant (and certainly the easiest) way to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere is to “grow them out.”  Plants sequester CO2.  Sometimes those plants are in the water.  The oceans are great and massive places to grow seaweeds and algae, so you might hear discussion of “sequestering CO2 in the oceans.”  That is what “sequestering” means in those examples: growing carbohydrates in salt water and foam that drop and mix with other stuff (like Calcium, sodium, and aluminum) to make coal, or oil, or rocks.

Low carb dieting, though, will not harm the environment.  Fats come from carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, just like carbs.  The difference is where you put the hydrogen. Carbo-(n)-hydrates (OH) are basic. Fats (H) are acids.  Put them together, H+OH --> H2O.  Protein are just fats (acids) and carbs (bases) with nitrogen attached.  Sometimes sulfur, too — that’s why some rotting proteins smell like farts while the bacteria eat them.

If you followed the 362 words above, you understand the basics of CO2 and global warming.  If you don’t understand that relationship, stay tuned. There might not be one.  But we do need trees.

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