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CO2 for dummies #4

The discovery of fossil fuels

The first human use of fossil fuels and their rapid transformation into CO2 dates back 6,000 years. Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians learned to collect the bituminous fraction of oil that emerged from puddles along the banks of the Euphrates. 3000 years ago in China, coal was being used as a fuel for copper smelting. But it was the Persian priests of the cult of fire who were the first to notice gas outcrops, perhaps lit by lightning strikes, and turned them into altars for their gods. The real boom in fossil fuels came with the invention of the internal combustion engine. Oil became the star of the show, and we have arrived at the industrial revolution. Over the past 150 years, the reserves accumulated over hundreds of millions of years have been burned and we have released large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 concentration has increased from 280 parts per million in the late nineteenth century to 400 parts per million today. Where previously CO2 contained the heat we needed to live on earth, it has now almost doubled its work. We risk being very hot in the coming future...