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  Question 7 Answer A
Carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants damages forests.   a) True

No, that is incorrect.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principal gas that trees and other plants need to survive, just like oxygen (O2) is the principal gas that humans and other animals require. Trees absorb CO2 and release O2; animals inhale O2 and exhale CO2.

Earth's first, primitive forests made their prolific debut 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period . Before then, the atmosphere held far more CO2 but concentrations declined throughout the Carboniferous as plants flourished.

During the Carboniferous the atmosphere became greatly depleted of CO2 (declining from about 2500 ppm to 350 ppm) so that by the end of the Carboniferous the CO2-impoverished atmosphere was less favorable to plant life and plant growth slowed dramatically. Today, CO2 concentrations are barely at 385 ppm (0.38% of our atmosphere) and approximately 96% of that is from entirely natural sources. At 250 ppm plants are seriously debilitated and at 150 ppm they die.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not to be confused with the potentially poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), which can kill humans and animals in just a few minutes. Life as we know it could not exist without carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Recent studies indicate CO2 enrichment of 1.5 times the present amount in the atmosphere increases photosynthesis by 45%.


Did you know ...

Carbon dioxide is invisible. Much of the “clouds of smoke” you see being emitted from coal-fired power plants are just that – clouds, but not of smoke but of water vapour. Powerplants use steam to drive the turbines that turn generators that generate electricity. Steam must be cooled and condensed to water to reuse it to make more steam.

The broad, curved towers that appear to be emitting white smoke (below) are actually only emitting water vapor. They are in effect making clouds.


Cooling Towers, 2000MW coal-fired Cottam Power Station, Nottinghamshire, UK

The actual exhaust emissions come from the smokestack, which is the tall thin tower. Because modern technology makes it possible to remove much of the fly ash and sulfur before releasing smokestack gases into the air, smokestack emissions today are often almost invisible.


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Produced with the assistance of Dr. Tim Ball & Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.), Executive Director, International Climate Science Coalition.
CSCCC FCPP is a member of Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change.
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© Frontier Centre for Public Policy 2017.