Tyler Volk


On his book CO2 Rising: The World’s Greatest Environmental Challenge

Cover Interview of December 04, 2008

In a nutshell

When fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are combusted they release CO2.  This greenhouse gas is no ordinary pollutant but an inherent waste byproduct of the energy conversion.  The CO2 is ejected skyward, thereby letting loose carbon atoms that had been outside the biosphere “system” for hundred of millions of years during their deep, underground sequestration.  Now released and wafted worldwide, the waste carbon then infiltrates into all parts of this surface system we inhabit—the biosphere’s intricate and intimate circulating webs of air, water, and soil, which include myriads of living creatures.  In short, the newly created CO2 enters the global carbon cycle.  This Jackson Pollack-like complex carbon cycle is one of the great wonders of the universe.  We are privileged to live within it and we must come to know it to understand the profound changes that are unfolding today.

The goal of this book is to set forth in plain language and powerful images the essential facts about the dynamics of fossil fuel-derived CO2 in the carbon cycle, how the CO2 is changing the natural world, how it will affect climate, and how its creation is tied to human material well-being.  The result, I hope, is the definitive statement about such topics as: How do we know the CO2 rise is due to human activities? What will be the future amounts of CO2? What causes the extraordinary seasonal cycle of CO2? Why don’t the oceans remove all the CO2? What do we learn from the dynamics of carbon in Earth’s past ice ages? Why are the exhaled breaths of the growing human population not net additions to atmospheric CO2? How ready for massive deployment are various energy technologies that do not emit CO2, for example carbon sequestration, biomass, solar, wind, and nuclear?

Written by a carbon cycle scientist, my book illuminates the complex, awesome dynamics of the carbon atom.  I have attempted to put forth the essential facts that I believe every Earth citizen should know about the role of fossil fuel carbon in the imbalance that we have created in the cycles.  The book links the CO2 molecule to life, energy, and the future of civilization.