Carbon Dioxide Concentration


  1. What is the greenhouse effect?
  2. Which gases are greenhouse gases?
  3. How has the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide changed in the last century?
  4. What are some of the effects of increased concentration of carbon dioxide?
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The graph shown provides information about the atmospheric concentration of
carbon dioxide since 1960, measured in parts per million.
  1. What trends do you observe from the data?
  2. Do you think these trends will continue in the near future?
  3. What kind of functions (linear, quadratic, exponential, etc.) would accurately
    describe the change in atmospheric CO2 concentration over the last 40 years?
  4. On the average, how much is the concentration changing each year?

Mathematical Topics:Learn or review mathematical concepts and skills needed
to study trends in atmospheric CO2 concentration. See the menu at the left.
Application :Apply mathematical concepts and use appropriate technology to
analyze past trends.

The table below provides information on carbon dioxide concentration for selected years.

Year 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000
Concentration (ppm) 316.75 319.87 325.52 330.99 338.52 345.73 354.04 360.91 369.40



  1. For convenience, we will let t denote years since 2000; that is, t=0 in 2000. Let C denote
    the carbon dioxide concentration. Make points out of the data and plot them;
    use a (t,C) coordinate system.
  2. Use linear regression to fit the data with a linear function. Call this function C(t) and graph it.
  3. For each of the years you have data provided, compare the actual carbon dioxide
    concentration with the concentration predicted by your function. Why do you think the
    figures are different?
  4. Use the function C(t) to answer these questions.
    • a. Estimate the carbon dioxide concentration in 1993.
    • b. Predict when the carbon dioxide concentration will reach 400 ppm.
    • c. At what rate is the carbon dioxide concentration increasing?
5. Until recently, the carbon dioxide concentration stayed at about 280 ppm.
  • a. According to your model, when was the concentration at this level?
  • b. When will the concentration reach double that level?
    Save this information. You will use it in part II

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