Visualizing the Quantities of Climate Change
By Matthew Conlen
At standard temperature and pressure, one metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO₂) would fill a sphere 32 feet (about 9.8 meters) in diameter. The average car in the U.S. will produce this over a three-month period.
The amount of carbon dioxide released due to burning fossil fuels has been increasing since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century.
In 1900, almost 2 billion metric tons of CO₂ were released due to fossil fuel usage. By 1960, that number had more than quadrupled to over 9 billion metric tons.
The latest data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center shows that over 35 billion metric tons of CO₂ were released in 2014.*
Because emissions are only partially reduced by natural land and ocean sinks, the rest of the annual carbon dioxide emissions from the human burning of fossil fuels remains in Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in the annual year-over-year rise in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, as seen here.
Explore NASA’s climate vital signs to learn more about carbon dioxide and other factors related to climate change.