South Beds FoE Homepage

Green Corner




An A-Z of the environment & issues

by Peter Hatswell



A  B  C  D

E  F  G  H  I  J

K  L  M  N  O  P

Q  R   S   T   U   V

W  X  Y  Z


A is for the Air we breathe























It also allows all living things to survive, fires to burn, engines to run, birds to fly, windmills to turn etc. It is approximately 4/5ths nitrogen and 1/5th oxygen plus some other gases, notably carbon dioxide at around 1/3rd of 1%. So why is such a small component causing so much grief with global warming?


Cold water absorbs this gas to form an acid (80% of the planet is covered by oceans), this however can have a negative effect on marine life. Many plants, under the right conditions, convert this gas into oxygen but when these natural absorbers are overloaded or reduced by irresponsible felling or drought, the concentration in the air increases and an irreversible change commences.


Carbon dioxide makes the air a better insulator, trapping the sunís heat and raising the world temperature enough to melt glaciers that have existed for many thousands of years. The effect of increased heat in the North Atlantic slows down the natural sinking of salt water which currently draws warm water from the Gulf of Mexico. This disruption the Gulf Stream would lead to much colder winters and hence less vegetation growth in the UK and Western Europe. Other polluting gases such as methane (natural gas) and fluorocarbons (man-made refrigerants) rise to the upper atmosphere to destroy ozone, thereby reducing this protective barrier to ultra violet radiation from the sun.


So do we stop breathing, travelling and burning fuel to keep warm? No, but we can all help by thinking about the need to travel, whether an extra pullover or more insulation would allow us to turn down the heating, choosing vehicles or household appliances with A or A+ ratings that pollute the least, buying furniture made using wood from sustainable forests, recycling glass, investing in renewable sources of energy, etc. These actions will help preserve the Air we live in.


Friends of the Earth