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How much carbon dioxide is in the air'

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Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009

To the Editor:

What percent of the air is carbon dioxide• It is a question I have asked 150 local residents of many random ages, professions and educational backgrounds.

A special uncirculated Lincoln penny is offered as a prize for an answer that is within 5 percent of the correct answer.

The question was asked in the spirit of providing a learning experience for me and a potential learning experience for the individuals being questioned. With carbon dioxide being framed as the major player in the global warming game and the focus of a wide range of new and much higher taxes (cap and trade), I wondered if the general public knew the salient carbon dioxide facts.

Did most people know the percent of carbon dioxide in the air ... how much has that percentage increased in the last 50 years• Isn't carbon dioxide plant food and essential for producing food for all animals ... including humans?

The most common answer for my question was that air contained 60 percent carbon dioxide. More than half of the people answered that air was more than 50 percent carbon dioxide.

One person said that all air was carbon dioxide. Ten people out of 150 gave an answer of 10 percent or lower. Three people gave an answer of 2 percent or lower. One person gave an answer of lower than 1 percent.

All who gave an answer were presented with the trophy penny, given the correct answer and asked to put the question to someone else.

It was great fun and an interesting learning experience for me, and certainly everyone learned something. The correct answer is air has a carbon dioxide concentration of less than one tenth of a percent and air has no more carbon dioxide than it did 50 years ago.

Do we need new and higher carbon dioxide taxes (cap and trade) to save the planet?

Ed Verkleeren

Belle Vernon

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