Math! How much CO2 by weight in the atmosphere?

According to wikipedia (CO2):

As of January 2007, the earth’s atmospheric CO2 concentration is about 0.0383% by volume (383 ppmv) or 0.0582% by weight. This represents about 2.996×1012 tonnes, and is estimated to be 105 ppm (37.77%) above the pre-industrial average.

CO2 concentration by weight is obtained by the formula below:

0.0383 V% x [44.0095/28.97] = 0.0582 m% CO2

whereby molar mass=44.0095 g/mole
and mean molar mass of air=28.97 g/mole

Then, to obtain the total mass of CO2, via wikipedia: according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “The total mean mass of the atmosphere is 5.1480×1018 kg.

Thus, the total weight of CO2 = 0.0582% x 5.1480 x 1015 tonnes
  = 2.996×1012 tonnes.

By applying the same formula, 4 other different values of CO2 concentration at different timeline as listed in the table below. Year 1750 is used for pre-industrial era (Industrial Revolution), 310 ppmv is obtained via the graph in 1960, and 2 predictions for year 2100 done by IPCC. The corresponding CO2 by total weight is calculated.


From year 1750 to 1960, additional 250 000 million tonnes CO2, or at the rate of 1190.48 million tonnes per year are added into atmosphere.

From year 1960 to 2007, another 570 000 million tonnes of CO2 are dumped into atmosphere, at much higher rate: 12127.7 million tonnes per year, which is about 10 times faster than the previous 2 centuries!

As of year 2002, human activities, especially fuel burning released 24,126.1 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This number is twice (2x) higher the rate calculated above. Could it mean that half of the CO2 released by human activity is managed to absorbed by carbon sink agents and thus not accounted into the CO2 concentration reading?

Let’s look at the future. IPCC gave 2 scenarios of the CO2 concentration (ppmv) by the year of 2100, 93 years away.

  • To achieve 571 ppmv, the additional CO2 needed to add into atmosphere is 1.235 ×1012 tonnes, or 13 279.6 million tonnes per year. This is half of the rate of CO2 we are releasing today.
  • To achieve 970 ppmv CO2 concentration, 4.558 x 1012 tonnes CO2, or 49 333.3 million tonnes per year is released.  This is twice (2x) the number on CO2 emission rate  what we are doing today!         

Another perspective of looking at these numbers. At 2002, human activity released 24 216.1 million tonnes of CO2.  Compared to the total CO2 mass in year 1750 (assuming it is in the state of equilibrium by then), that is accounted only 1.11%.  What could this number mean?


  1. March 31, 2007 at 4:07 am

    […] Monthly atmospheric CO2 records from 10 sites around the world is collected: Mauna Loa, Barrow, American Samoa, South Pole, Alert, Cape Kumukahi, Christmas Island, Baring Head, Kermadec Island, and La Jolla Pier. The concentration of CO2 in volume fraction (ppmv) is then translate into mass fraction and the weight of CO2 at particular year is then calculated (see previous post here). […]

  2. April 4, 2007 at 5:21 am

    […] 5.20 to 6.60 ppmv. By converting the concentration value in ppmv, the weight of CO2 is calculated (like example here). The weight of CO2 is listed in the table […]

  3. C said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Research in 2007 has proven that we have had as much as 600 ppm in the atmosphere as recently as 1942. You can find the research and papers here.

    180 Years of atmospheric CO 2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods

  4. Billgls said,

    September 12, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Carbon Dioxide is heavier than air. If it covered the earth in sufficient amount to block spectrums of sunlight, would it not smother all animals on earth?

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  8. January 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    […] science — stone1343 @ 12:13 pm For how much the CO2 in the atmosphere weighs, best might be but I can outline simple calculations for you to do it (surface area of Earth * 14.7 psi air […]

  9. January 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    […] gigatonnes total CO2 in the atmosphere, another easily verifiable fact (here’s a reference, and it also lists the weight of CO2 for a few different concentrations). Wikipedia confirms both of […]

  10. John Higgins said,

    July 13, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Is it correct that humans only contribute approx 3% of the CO2 in the atmosphere and that the majority of CO2 is created by warming of the sea?

    People are focused on human CO2 generation but I think population growth and the resultant deforestation is a major concern? What do you think?

    It is great to see the actual tonnage of CO2 as most people cannot comprehend how much CO2 is in the atmosphere…and the alarmists always quote in absolute weight rather than percentage!!

  11. SUGAT said,

    September 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I want to calculate the weight (in grams) of CO2 in say 1.0 litre of Air if say the concentration of CO2 is 360 ppm.
    How do I do this ?
    Would you kindly let me know.
    Thanks in anticipation

  12. Watson said,

    October 17, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Did no one ever notice this?
    “The total mean mass of the atmosphere is 5.1480×1018 kg.

    Thus, the total weight of CO2 = 0.0582% x 5.1480 x 1015 tonnes
    = 2.996×1012 tonnes.

    The mass of the atmosphere is magically reduced by a factor of 1000 times in the body of the calculation, and is not corrected in the final answer, which should read 2.996 x 1015 tonnes as agreed by most authorities, including Wikipedia

    • JD said,

      February 28, 2012 at 2:50 am

      Hello Watson,
      there is no error here, actually, because the units were changed. The first unit was ‘kilograms’ afterwards is was expressed in ‘tonnes’, which is 1000 kg, so the exponent was reduced by 3 correctly. It’s about 3 x10^12. Which by the way about 5 hundredths of one percent of the total atmosphere.

      • thefaulkrum said,

        February 28, 2012 at 6:35 am

        so let me get this strieght, thats 3×10^12 TON. (three million millon or three trillion Tons.)

  13. Crazy Bill said,

    November 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Watson check your maths.

    A few more numbers. Emissions are growing at 2% p.a. That means that they double every 30 years unless we do something about slowing down burning of oil and coal.

    If not, the 24GT/yr in 2002 given above will be about 50GT/yr in 2040s and 100GT/yr in 2080s. The 970ppmv at 2100 isn’t improbable if things keep going the way they have been..

  14. Mr Meh said,

    December 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Now go and do the integration of the hubbert curve of peek oil and look at the total amount of oil produced/consumed, convert that to tonnes of CO2 assuming around 317kg per barrel. I get a figure of around 2.02 e+11 tonnes. Thats basically all thats come from oil alone since around 1900.

    • stephen last said,

      May 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm

      Thats exactly my point. How can we double our production of co2 when oil is going to peak in a couple of decades. Surely we would need to double the number of cars on the road,double the number of coal fired generators and double the amount of cement produced – I doubt that we have enough resources to do that.

  15. steven last said,

    January 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    they wouldn,t reach those figures in 2100 because we haven,t got enough oil reserves to burn that much and the population isn,t likely to double.

    • Pacho Gangotena said,

      May 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      I am doing some estimations in agriculture in relation to organic matter.
      I would like to know the amount (in pounds or kilos) of carbon and of CO2 in the air above an hectare (I mean, in the 10 km of atmosphere).

  16. steve said,

    June 17, 2011 at 4:47 am

    This whole man caused climate change by co-2 argument is BS when the number one greenhouse gas is Water vapor an It accounts for 75% 0f the atmosphere and can vary by 4% which is 10,000 times the amount of co-2 in the atmosphere which is .0383%. I’ll give more thought into what I want for dinner than worrying about the amount of co-2 even if it doubles in the next 100 years. The pointy head academics in the world are willing to scarafice a countries ecomcomy ie USA on BS. Go to H*** A holes. For the rest of you look at the gastault view and put into perspective.

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  18. Crispin in Waterloo said,

    April 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    The carbonaceous resources of the planet are probably enough to raise the CO2 to 530 ppm (140 above present) considering the absorption of CO2 by the oceans and plants. Climate realists will have noticed that the ’emission’ is sated as if it is net. It is not. The US in particular is absorbing a great deal of CO2 with the re-growth of the Easter Forests.

    The expansion of oceans, perhaps to their 2 m higher former levels, will happen as ice sheets melt. This creates >200,000 cubic kilometers of new seawater which will absorb a vast amount of CO2 to bring it up to the current 0.03% contained in sea water. If you want a number on it, a metre rise in sea level from meltwater would absorb 35 billion tons of CO2. There is a heck of a lot more ice on just Greenland than that 200k. It is about 5m cubic km. It has not disappeared completely in a long time, but lots of it could. New seawater stabilises its own pH and the atmosphere may find itself stripped of CO2 rather efficiently.

  19. derk pfannenstiel said,

    September 15, 2012 at 4:41 am

    I wonder if we have caused, or are adding to the increased rate of global warming by our good deed of recycling of paper products. The rate of global warming has increased as paper product recycling has increased and paper is just a form of carbon which we used to sequester by throwing in the dump. A very rough look (I am not a scientist, nor have good data) shows that the world produces about 300 million metric tons of paper products a year, of which 63% is recycled or about 200 million metric tonnes which according to one web site is equivalent to about 360 million metric tonnes of CO2 we are not sequestering a year. Wonder if any actual scientists could run the numbers. Thanks

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  23. Louis said,

    September 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm


    Your calculation shows an increase of 73 CO2 ppmv from 1960 to 2007.

    Now let’s assume the relationship between CO2 ppmv & temperature is correct and have a look at figure 5 (

    An additionnal 73 CO2 ppmv represents about 10 more °C : Oooooops !
    Assuming the way we think is correct :
    – Something is happening to CO2 up there, or this is gonna heat very fast !

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  30. Nick Schroeder, BSME, PE said,

    March 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Oh, great, another learning experience. So it turns out that when “they” talk about atmospheric ppm it is based on volume, ppmv. When “they” discuss human produced CO2 it’s on a mass basis. If this were a high school term paper I’d mark it down for mixing and mis-matching units without explanation. So I reworked my calc. using specific volumes to get all constituents on a ppmm basis. The 30.2 ppmm human CO2 value comes from the 4 C warming report by the World Bank. What did I conclude? 80% of the CO2 concentration increase since 1959 cannot be attributed to man. Now what? Point the way. If I’m off track, step right up. Included my work.

    Specific Volume, cu ft/lb
    Air 13.063 cu ft/lb
    CO2 8.548 cu ft/lb
    Mass 5.15E+18 kg
    lb/kg 2.2046
    Mass 1.14E+19 lb
    Cubic Feet 1.48E+20 cu ft
    Carbon Dioxide, CO2
    Vol Conc. CO2 400 ppmv
    CO2 5.93E+16 cu ft
    Mass CO2 6.94E+15 lb
    Mass Conc CO2 611.28 ppmm
    ppmm/ppmv 1.53
    ppmv ppmm
    260 397.3
    280 427.9
    390 596.0
    Δ 390 to 260 198.7
    Δ 390 to 280 168.1
    Δ man 30.6
    % man 15.4%
    % man 18.2%

  31. Nick Schroeder, BSME, PE said,

    March 3, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Sorry, had to find where I left this.

    According to the 4 C Warmer World Report, atmospheric CO2 concentrations since 1959 have risen from the 260 to 280 ppm range to 391 ppm in September, 2012, an increase of 110 to 130 ppm.
    The report also states that since 1959 “…approximately 350 tonnes of carbon have been emitted through human activity, of which 55 percent has been taken up by the ocean…” So since 1959 human activity has contributed 158 tonnes to the atmosphere. That’s 30.6 ppm. Where did the rest come from? And what shall be done about it?

    • Crispin in Waterloo said,

      March 4, 2014 at 3:48 am

      It seems the 4 degrees is an old figure from 2007 IPCC AR4. In January 2014 without announcement, it has been reduced to 2.1 degrees for a doubling of CO2 concentration.

      The PhD thesis of Dr Willem Nel shows that it is very unlikely that human emissions can drive it above 530 ppm and then the carbon-based fuels are simply not available in quantities sufficient to overcome the natural sinks.

      The interesting implication is that at the current sensitivity estimates (many are lower) it is basically impossible for the globe by be heated by 1 degree C by human activities releasing CO2.

      To quote Nick, “And what shall be done about it?”

  32. Nick Schroeder, BSME, PE said,

    March 6, 2014 at 2:23 am

    Reference: World Bank 4 C Warming Report.
    In 1959 atmospheric CO2 concentration was 316 ppmv, 483 ppmm, 2.5E12 tonnes.
    In 2012 atmospheric CO2 concentration was 391 ppmv, 598 ppmm, 3.08E12 tonnes.
    The net increase is .590E12 tonnes.
    Between 1959 and 2012 human activity produced .35E12 tonnes 55% of which was absorbed by oceans and land leaving .193E12 tonnes into the atmosphere.
    .193E12 divided by 0.590E12 = 32.7% human contribution.

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  48. September 30, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    […] mechanism is very simple.  There is an awful lot of CO2 in the atmosphere.  On one estimate, 3000 gigatonnes (3 x 1012). But there is a great deal more in the oceans – again, on some […]

  49. November 7, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    The following tables and observations are based on a (farm & of UN) global CO2 balance Bing image. This diagram is typical of many variations.
    How much carbon is there? Carbon, not CO2!
    Reservoir……………………………..Gt C………%
    Surface ocean……………………1,020……..2.2%
    Deep Ocean…………………….38,100……81.2%
    Marine Biota…………………………….3……..0.0%
    Dissolved Organic Carbon…….700………1.5%
    Ocean Sediments………………….150……..0.3%
    Fossil Fuel & Cement…………..4,000……..8.5%

    Carbon moves back and forth between and among these reservoirs, the great fluxes.

    Atmospheric Fluxes, Gt C/y………Source………Sink
    Ocean Surface……………………………..90…………..92
    Fossil Fuel & Cement……………………5.5

    The net of 3.3 (seen this before?) is exactly 60% of FF & C. How convenient. How dry labbed.

    Now this is all carbon. Carbon is not always CO2. Carbon can be soot from fires, tail pipes, volcanoes. Carbon can be carbonates in limestone and coral. But let’s just say all of this carbon converts to CO2 at 3.67, 44/12, units of CO2 per unit of carbon. How many Gt of CO2?

    Atmospheric Fluxes, Gt CO2/y…….Source……..….Sink
    Ocean Surface………………………………330.3……….337.64
    Fossil Fuel & Cement……………………..20.185

    Now is it ppm volume or ppm gram mole? If one is to compare the number of molecules it must be CO2/atmosphere ppm gram mole, 44/28.96.

    Atmospheric Fluxes, ppm/y………Source……..Sink
    Ocean Surface…………………………….42.63……43.57
    Fossil Fuel & Cement…………………………………..2.60
    Net……………………………………………….1.56 (Let’s just blame this all on FF & C.)

    Per IPCC AR5 Table 6.1 some of these sources and sinks have uncertainties of +/- 40 & 50%!! IMHO anybody who claims that out of these enormous reservoirs and fluxes they can with certainty, accuracy, specifically assign 1.56 ppm/y to FF & C is flat blowing smoke.

  50. November 7, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Prior to MLO the atmospheric CO2 concentrations, both paleo ice cores and inconsistent contemporary grab samples, were massive wags. Data at some of NOAA’s tall towers passed through 400 ppm years before MLO reached that level. IPCC AR5 TS.6 claims uncertainty in CO2 concentrations over land. Preliminary data from OCO-2 suggests that CO2 is not as well mixed as assumed. Per IPCC AR5 WG1 chapter 6 mankind’s share of the atmosphere’s CO2 is basically unknown, could be anywhere from 4% to 96%. (IPCC AR5 Ch 6, Figure 6.1, Table 6.1)

    The major global C/CO2 reservoirs (not CO2 per se, C is a precursor proxy for CO2), i.e. oceans, atmosphere, vegetation & soil, contain over 42,000 Pg (Gt) of C/CO2. Over 90% of this C/CO2 reserve is in the oceans. Between these reservoirs ebb and flow hundreds of Pg C/CO2 per year, the great fluxes. For instance, vegetation absorbs C/CO2 for photosynthesis producing plants and O2. When the plants die and decay they release C/CO2. A divinely maintained balance of perfection for thousands of years, now unbalanced by mankind’s evil use of fossil fuels.

    So just how much net C/CO2 does mankind’s evil fossil fuel consumption add to this perfectly balanced 42,000 Gt cauldron of churning, boiling, fluxing C/CO2? 3 Gt C/CO2. That’s correct, 3. Not 3,000, not 300, 3! How are we supposed to take this seriously?

    IPCC AR5 attributes 2 W/m^2 of unbalancing RF due to the increased CO2 concentration between 1750 and 2011. In the overall global heat balance 2 W (watt is power, not energy) is lost in the magnitude and uncertainty of: ToA, 340 +/- 10, fluctuating albedo of clouds, snow and ice, and the absorption and release of heat from evaporation and condensation of the ocean and water vapor cycle. (IPCC AR5 Ch 8, FAQ 8.1)

    IPCC AR5 acknowledges the LTT pause in Text Box 9.2 and laments the failure of the GCMs to model it. IPCC GCMs don’t work because they exaggerate the role, i.e. climate sensitivity, of CO2/GHGs RF in the heat balance and dismiss the role of water vapor because man does not cause nor control it.

    The sea ice and sheet ice is expanding not shrinking, polar bear population is the highest in decades, the weather (30 years = climate) is less extreme not more, the sea level rise is not accelerating, the GCM’s are repeat failures, the CAGW hypothesis is coming unraveled, COP21 has all the makings of yet another embarrassing fiasco, IPCC AR6 will mimic SNL’s Rosanna Rosanna Dana, “Well, neeeveeer mind!!”

  51. December 31, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    It was a thrill to see the Nicholas Schroeder comments 49 and 50!
    I use only the contribution of All Life Forms on Earth at 300 billion tons of CO2 released every year and thank God that the Oceans control the atmospheric concentration at 400 PPM so I can release my CO2 and sleep at night.
    The IPCC is the non event of the century (10 fast talking Brits) doing much more harm the Communism (2 Brits) using the wonderful English Language.
    That way, I do not have to concern myself with Electric Coal Burning and Transportation Oil which makes life so good.
    “Global Warming” and “Climate Change” will soon be gone as political and cultural problems and we will then only have “Seasonal Climate Change” to deal with.
    It is so sad that the Liberal Democrats have almost ruined the educational system and the Economy of America with Lies and falsehoods promoted by the IPCC.

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  61. Efrain Colongallardo said,

    June 8, 2017 at 5:53 am

    I love your calculations on CO2 tonnages but question your static analysis that does not include the dynamic absorption of CO2 by plant life which produces most of its non-water mass breathing in CO2.
    Destruction of American forests began to reverse in the early 1900s as coal and oil began to seriously replace wood for heating & electricity production. Transportation by plant-fed animals rapidly died. Wood-fired trains & fuel for the new motor vehicles no longer needed wood and the destruction of forests. And the forests now had another source of nutrition, the CO2 we produce by mining carbon, burning it and releasing it into the atmosphere.
    Virginia, for example, has increased its forested areas since coal & oil burning became institutionalized and began spewing CO2 into the atmosphere. Most of that produced CO2 is absorbed by local land & sea plants, (also by shelled sea animal life to produce calcium carbonate over time), and that absorption will increase the total plant tonnage available so that as CO2 increases, plants will grow fatter, faster and more numerous no matter what we do. Eventually, we will have a forest planet as Earth used to be, rather than a desert planet as has been gradually occurring over the past 300 million years as natural forces bury carbon underground as coal, oil, shale, natural gas & calcium carbonate (limestone & marble) and make it unavailable to the biosphere.
    Desertification will continue if we stop venting CO2 into the atmosphere. And the glaciers will melt anyway as they have done every warm interglacial period after the end of every Ice Age phase over the last several million years. During the last interglacial period (the Eemian Interglacial), sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher at its end on average than it is today. The effect is clearly seen in the Mediterranean Sea which has been rising for more than 10,000 years and has submerged many ancient cities with its rise and in the Chesapeake Bay which was the Susquehanna River before the Atlantic Ocean rose and moved 40 miles inland.
    Also you should factor in that we have real problems, such as we are near the end of the present Holocene Interglacial and interglacials end abruptly with extreme temperature drops, so increasing the world temperature would compensate for some of the temperature drop to come. Scientists have measured an insufficient neutrino count coming from the Sun so the possibility exists that nuclear fusion within the sun has already entered a ‘cool’ period which will eventually/soon? end the present interglacial. Meteor strikes are a much greater threat; pandemics; nuclear war; etc.
    CO2 global warming is not a credible threat on a planet with plants that need as much CO2 as they can get since they presently exist in a virtual CO2 vacuum of 6 one-hundredth of one percent CO2. Compare the 21% oxygen level we animals have to breathe and plants are basically asphyxiating with 0.06% CO2 to breathe, one 350th of the oxygen we have to breathe. At our present rate of adding 40 Billion tons CO2 per year, it will take us 75 years to double CO2 to 0.12% of the atmosphere even using static analysis. Still a trace gas even when we fail to factor in the dynamic CO2 sink created by plant life. Plants alone make runaway CO2 global warming unlikely in the extreme.

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