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Balancing the Carbon Cycle: How to turn grams of carbon into CO2 parts per million.
1. Take grams of carbon and divide by 12 g/mol to get moles of carbon or moles of CO2 since CO2 has 1 mole of carbon in each mole of CO2.

2. Take the number of moles and divide by the number of moles of air in the atmosphere (1.8194 X 1020 mol), then multiply by one million (106) to get parts per million, ppm.

Example: Let's say we have 3.2 Gt C released into the atmosphere in a certain process. G means giga = 109 and t = tons, which is 1000 kg or 106 g, so what we really have is 3.2 X 1015 g of C. Note: All data are expressed in SI, or metric units, so a ton means a metric ton, which is 1000 kg, or 2200 lbs.

step 1: 3.2 X 1015 g / 12 g/mol = 2.7 X 1014 mol

step 2: (2.7 X 1014 mol / 1.8194 X 1020 mol) X 106 = 1.4 ppm

What if you're given a mass of CO2 instead of a mass of carbon? Then, in step 1 divide by 44 g/mol, the molecular weight of CO2.

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