Audience-Pleasing Physical Models to Support CO2 Outreach

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Demo
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Demo 2 — Seeing the Carbon in CO2 [See materials and supplies]

How much CO2 is produced during combustion of fossil fuel?

Because CO2 is a colorless gas transparent to light, people think that it must be unimportant and harmless. This demonstration creates a visual to let participants see the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere.

Figure 2. Briquettes help people imagine carbon in CO2 emissions.

Set-up: Pour charcoal out on a white plastic bag as a visual aid (figure 2).

Explain: One gallon of gasoline has about 5.2 lb (2.3 kg) of carbon. Charcoal briquettes are almost all carbon.

A 5-lb bag of charcoal holds about 100 briquettes. At 26 miles/gallon, that’s 0.2 lb of carbon (four to five charcoal briquettes)/mile. Participants can count out briquettes to equal the amount of carbon that will bereleased to the atmosphere during a normal drive.

Conclusion: “A standard U.S. car throws a charcoal briquette (or more) of carbon from its tailpipe about every ¼ mile. If people could see the carbon that was being released when everyone threw the equivalent of a briquette out of his or her car every ¼ mile, would it make a difference in how people act?”