Teacher Site Map
Earth Systems Science Core
Science Home Page

Have Humans Changed the Carbon Cycle?

Previously in Sci-ber Text you learned how carbon compounds can cycle between living organisms and the environment. Remember there are a wide variety of compounds made of carbon. This Web page allows you to look at evidence and determine if humans are influencing the carbon cycle.

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has noted the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing since 1850. Think about the changes that have happened with humans since 1850. What do you think may contribute to this increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? You may have considered the use of fossil fuel-driven engines, because many more of these exist now than previously. Perhaps you realized that a greater number of humans on the planet could result in the burning of more fuels for heating and cooking. There is probably not just a single correct answer to this question.

List activities in which humans may influence the carbon cycle. How many items did you find on your list? Compare your list with a peer and, if there are differences, combine the lists to create a "super list."

Now rank your list based on the influence humans have on that aspect of the carbon cycle. For example, the area which you feel has changed the most by human activities should be highest on your list.

Try It!

With adult permission determine how you can experiment with one of the activities you have listed. Can you prove that it produces carbon dioxide as a by-product? For example, if you thought that making soda to drink was a factor, you might try making homemade root beer using dry ice. To prove that carbon dioxide is given off, you could put a lit candle nearby and observe what happens when the "fog" leaves the root beer.

Review science lab safety rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE Earth Systems Science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

Science Home Page | Curriculum Home Page | Earth Systems Science Core | USOE Home Page

Copyright Utah State Office of Education.