The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (with water vapor and methane) keeps the earth warm enough for life to exist. Without these “greenhouse gasses,” earth would be 91°F colder (from its average 59°F), 1 or -32° F on average, making its temperature well below freezing. Photosynthesis in plants also relies on carbon dioxide, converting it to oxygen.
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Rhodes, F. H. (2012). Earth: A Tenant's Manual. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Rhodes, 2012, p. 21: “The small amount of residual carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plays a vital role, together with water vapor and methane, in maintaining Earth’s surface temperature at a comfortable average level of 59°F. Though we tend to label greenhouse gases as harmful, without this beneficial greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere, Earth’s temperature would be 91°F colder, and the planet would be uninhabitable.” ↩