# Help check my math. How many balloons can be filled with 10 billion tons of CO2

I just figured this out for another post. Trying to help visualize how much CO2 is being released through fossil fuel use. If one had 10 billion tons of compressed CO2 in some giant tank, how many standard sized party balloons could one fill with it?

My physics is rusty (was never to great really…) and I do not have a proper calculator.

I really do not want to release horribly inaccurate numbers into the universe, and figure some on this forum might even be able to do it in their heads. And would enjoy doing so…

I assumed .7L as the volume for a typical balloon.

Thanks for any help.

What pressure is the CO[sub]2[/sub] at?

Sorry for not specifying. STP.

A whole heck of a lot because at STP the balloons won’t inflate at all. You have to over-pressurize the balloon to fight against the elasticity of the balloon material. However its density is just below 2 kg per cubic meter at STP. A short (US) ton is 907 kg so 10 billion tons is 9 trillion kg. This would be 4.5 trillion cubic meters or about 157 trillion cubic feet. That’s a cube about 12,000 feet high, wide, and deep.

Ok, so 4.5 trillion cubic meters would give 4.5 quadrillion cubic liters. If a balloon is 7 deciliters in volume, that would give 6.2 quadrillion balloons (if there was a way to inflate them to STP.).

That is little a bit less than I got (7.3Q), but I used metric tons instead of short. Thank you OldGuy.

How much higher in pressure would the gas in the balloons be? If it’s only about 3 percent, you could just round down to 6 quadrillion balloons. If it’s more like 20 to 25 percent, then you’d have 5 quadrillion balloons.

Well, I was really just trying to find a way to visualize something that is invisible, how much fossil CO2 was released in 2012…

But for the sake of accuracy…if 10 billion metric tons equals 7 quadrillion units of gas (7dL @ STM), and if the average balloon is pressurized to 1.4 atm…then 5,000,000,000,000,000 balloons…

They would be red balloons too.

That’s a very small balloon - less than 5 inches in diameter.

I decided to try this with larger units, so I used the Tokyo Dome. According to this site, it’s inflated to 0.3% above outside pressure. I ignored that because I suck at physics and chemistry.

The site lists the volume at 1.24 million cubic meters. CO2 has a molar mass of 44.01g, and one mole of an ideal gas is 22.4 liters at STP. One metric ton of CO2 at STP would be 508975 liters, or around 509 cubic meters. So, the Tokyo Dome would hold around 2,436 metric tons.

So, 4,105,090 Tokyo Domes. :eek:

How is imagining quadrillions of tiny party balloons or even millions of stadia going to get you to a good vizualization? You’re talking about the results of the entire planet’s combustion. Try something a little larger. I mean, you might as well try to wrap your head around how much urine all the world’s animals produce each year by asking how many quart bottles they could fill.

For example, 10 billion tons of CO2 is about 5000 km^3, so it would blanket the city of Tokyo (2200 km^2) to a depth of 2.3 km, where it would exert a pressure of about 44 kPa. If it were evenly mixed into the air above Tokyo, it would constitute about 44% of it, which would, of course, be immediately fatal.

Or if it were layered over the entire nation of Japan (380,000 km^2) it would form a layer about 13m thick which would exert a pressure of about 250 Pa. If it were evenly mixed into the air above Japan, it would constitute about 0.2% of it.

If it were all converted to limestone, which is its ultimate fate, it would be enough to create a slab of limestone as big as Tokyo and 4m thick. You could probably carve all the buildings in Tokyo out of it and have plenty left over.

Imagining 500 quadrillion red balloons(basing that on the IPCC one trillion ton number) floating around the sky (I realize CO2 balloons really would not float) works well for me.

Better than scores of CO2 Hoover dams, or slabs, or domes. But each to his own…Whatever it takes to comprehend a massive amount of an invisible substance.