Carbon dioxide. This seemingly simple and ubiquitous substance is fundamental to how our planet works. All life is made from CO2 and its behavior on this planet has kept it bizarrely habitable for hundreds of millions of years. In its workings lie both the splendor of our world—and the potential for life’s destruction. In short, it is the most important substance in Earth’s history.
But why is CO2 as essential to life on Earth as it is capable of destroying it?
In THE STORY OF CO2 IS THE STORY OF EVERYTHING, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen reveals carbon dioxide’s fundamental role in the operation and maintenance of Planet Earth. Starting at the beginning of time and working all the way up to our present reality, he illuminates how CO2 has been responsible for the planet’s many deaths and rebirths, for the evolution of life, and for the development of modern human society.
Carbon dioxide’s movement through the rocks, the air, the oceans, and life has kept our planet’s climate livable, its air breathable, and its oceans hospitable to complex life for more than 500 million years. And only by understanding CO2 in the context of deep Earth history can we see how it gave rise to today’s industrial economy – and more clearly recognize what it means to be churning through hundreds of millions of years of old life in the form of fossil fuels and converting it all to carbon dioxide.
With groundbreaking research and a clear-eyed perspective, Brannen shows how a deep exploration into the mechanics of the carbon cycle and the history of our planet can provide hope for averting environmental catastrophe in the future. It all starts with a richer understanding of the essential role of one substance.
Peter Brannen is an award-winning science journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, Washington Post, Slate, Boston Globe, Aeon, and others. A graduate of Boston College, he was a 2015 journalist-in-residence at the Duke University National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and a 2011 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Journalism Fellow. This is his first book.