Climate change: Earth’s giant game of Tetris – Joss Fong

Climate change: Earth’s giant game of Tetris – Joss Fong

To understand climate change, think of the game “Tetris.” For eons, Earth has played a version of this game with blocks of carbon. They enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas from volcanoes, decaying plant matter, breathing creatures and the surface of the sea. And they leave the atmosphere when they’re used by plants during photosynthesis, absorbed back into the ocean, or stored in soil and sediment. This game of Tetris is called the carbon cycle, and it’s the engine of life on Earth. What’s the connection to climate? Well, when that carbon dioxide is in the air, waiting to be reabsorbed, it traps a portion of the sun’s heat, which would otherwise escape to space. That’s why carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas. It creates a blanket of warmth, known as the greenhouse effect, that keeps our Earth from freezing like Mars. The more carbon dioxide blocks hang out in the atmosphere waiting to be cleared, the warmer Earth becomes. Though the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has varied through ice ages and astroid impacts, over the past 8,000 years the stable climate we know took shape, allowing human civilization to thrive. But about 200 years ago, we began digging up that old carbon that had been stored in the soil. These fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas are made from the buried remains of plants and animals that died long before humans evolved. The energy stored inside them was able to power our factories, cars and power plants. But burning these fuels also injected new carbon blocks into Earth’s Tetris game. At the same time, we cleared forests for agriculture, reducing the Earth’s ability to remove the blocks. And since 1750, the amount of carbon in the atmosophere has increased by 40%, and shows no sign of slowing. Just like in Tetris, the more blocks pile up, the harder it becomes to restore stability. The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere accelerates the greenhouse effect by trapping more heat near the surface and causing polar ice caps to melt. And the more they melt, the less sunlight they’re able to reflect, making the oceans warm even faster. Sea levels rise, coastal populations are threatened with flooding, natural ecosystems are disrupted, and the weather becomes more extreme over time. Climate change may effect different people and places in different ways. But, ultimately, it’s a game that we’re all stuck playing. And unlike in Tetris, we won’t get a chance to start over and try again.

100 thoughts on “Climate change: Earth’s giant game of Tetris – Joss Fong

  1. Love the analogy. Makes it very easy for people unfamiliar with the nature of Climate Change to get their head around it! Good job ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Here is a related video about how to grow fresh air ..ย

  3. the solution is simple, we could plant more plants and trees to absorb carbon dioxide, but this is not profitable andย nobody is interested…. sad…

  4. Sure are a lot of idiots here that believe this crap…gullible fools don't know when they're being lied to in order to have some unelected global controllers tax them for living while the controllers live lives of luxury exempt from all their own rules. Earth's climate has never been stable and BTW we're heading into an ice age…not warming.

  5. CO2 makes up such an minuscule part of the atmosphere that it literally insults my intelligence to suggest such a thing. CO2 makes up .04% of the atmosphere. For every 10000 molecules only 1 is CO2.

  6. @WillMePHD, really?
    Have you ever tasted the effect of something with a very powerfull tast like coffee, Aspartame, bitter drugs and so on? A very small drop in your glass can have a huge impact on the tast of the drink. Aspartame makes up about .03% of diet coke, yet gives it a sweet taste. You see, it is just like that with CO2 and greenhouse effect, CO2 makes up a small portion of atmosphere, but yet has quiet a big impact on earths atmosphere. If you think about it logically, there is no reason to conclude that a small substance could not have a big impact, just think about the diet coke.

  7. Good analogy for kids, sadly kids now a days don't even know what Tetris is. Haha luckily being nearly 30 I got the analogy.

  8. why are you telling us about this climate change crap? talk to the governments, idiot. if this is real it's a crisis and in a crisis you act, not talk to people about the problem you're having.

  9. We are stupid things with a great consciousness, nothing else, the universe doesn't give a fuck if we stop existing or about whatever we do.
    Yes, im in my period today (?)

  10. try looking for information on how recent sun activity affects earth, I find this video as nothing more than GW propaganda. If you stumble upon information that is opposite of this one – that we may face extreme cold weather and more extreme storms,heat waves, everything basicly and no word of global worming, just enjoy your mind being blown and enjoy the feeling of waking up ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. So, the influence that cosmic rays have over the climate is… irrelevant, right?
    The knowledge that at some point we had 5 to 10 times the level of actual CO2 and yet lower temperatures, is also… irrelevant.
    There is a clear correlation between the amount of cosmic rays in the galaxy, the Earth's position on it, and the sun's activity.
    But again, it is also… irreleveant.

  12. God this is stupid, as NASA shows,

    ย GHGs BLOCK out far more heat than the block in. ย 159.3 degrees F at the equator on the equinox. ย While keeping in only 59 F. ย Cooling the earth by 100.3 degrees F per second each day.

    People are so stupid when they think the have an education in climatology but have only read some article sin the New York Times.

  13. Loved the comparison! If only climate change came with a catchy theme song too, then people might start to care..

  14. "the more blocks pile up the harder it becomes to restore balance". Obviously you didn't play a lot of Tetris; it's called "setting up a combo".

  15. We just need Athmosphere-trees that float up there and photosynthesize the shit out of CO2.
    "yeah, eat that Green house Gas you dirty dirty ivy"

    Climatology just got sexy. I think we can mobilize the masses now.

  16. At approximately 40 seconds in, the narrator says that "CO2 traps heat from the Sun in the atmosphere". This is NOT how the atmosphere warms.

    CO2 traps EARTH heat, not solar energy. Incoming solar energy zips right past CO2, is absorbed by the Earth, then radiated as heat.

    Of course, time is limited in these videos … but that the atmosphere is warmed from below by Earth radiation is a fundamental concept which science students need to understand.

  17. What complete bullshit…let's just ignore the fact that the planet is greener now than it was 50 years ago precisely because we are burning fossil fuels…or maybe it's the volcanos…let's talk to our plants and trees today and ask them if their co2 is from a volcano or a cow fart or maybe Algore's jet exhaust…and in the short term we don't even know if we will need an umbrella this afternoon.

  18. i will clear the blocks this way:
    S I I POO
    S= sea's surface
    P= dust particle
    C= carbon
    O= oxygen
    I= i-particle

  19. Here in America, What needs to be done is fixing the election process once and for all securing it from the republicans and neocons and other outsiders hacking into it and stripping the peopleโ€™s vote! Then get them and their fossil fuel contributors OUT of office and away from our legislative process!! And Iโ€™m sure the same corruption is going on in many other places on this earth!

  20. Wow! Joss Fong of Vox! I hope that more information about climate change includes deforestation and destructive practices of animal agriculture. CH4 or Methane is not as large as CO2 carbon dioxide in amount released, however, it is more potent in its effect as a greenhouse gas. I also would have hoped that in the Tetris analogy the game would have started to speed up with overpopulation, melting of icecaps, refugees who left flooded areas due to the tide, heat increase and acidification of the ocean.

  21. i don,t get it from one point of view in our energy sources like electricity we use nuclear and other fossil fuels to generate heats in order to create steam to drive turbine then condense it from sea or other water sources one could say we are using the dormant heat and pouring it in our environment beside co2 isnt that real problem since that hot water become part of ocean and atmosphere

  22. Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood

  23. I like Ted Ed, I just subscribed but itโ€™s pretty good for getting general information but not specific which is what Iโ€™m looking for

  24. well this video is nice it was boring and complicated we see you too study in a easy way which is not complicated but you confused us better luck for next time

  25. Possibly because I haven't played too much Tetris, I'm still not really sure how it relates to climate change. I don't know if there's a clear analogy, but I do think this is great video with concise information that makes it easy to understand the basics of climate change.

  26. "It's a game that we're all stuck playing. And unlike in Tetris, we won't get a chance to start over and try again"

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  29. According to the Vostok Ice Core Records, CO2 level changes have followed Earth's overall temperature changes at an 800 year lag for the last 800,000 years. That means that our current CO2 levels are the result of Earth's overall temperature 800 years ago. World leaders have convinced their dependents that this works in the reverse order, relatively quickly, and that we are to blame, so that they can tax us out of a false shared guilt in order to be able to afford to "fight" climate change, an unstoppable natural cycle. The following is the source of this information:

    Historical Carbon Dioxide Record from the Vostok Ice Core

    J.-M. Barnola, D. Raynaud, C. Lorius
    Laboratoire de Glaciologie et de Gรฉophysique de l'Environnement,
    CNRS, BP96,
    38402 Saint Martin d'Heres Cedex, France

    N.I. Barkov
    Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute,
    Beringa Street 38, 199397,
    St. Petersburg, Russia

    Period of Record
    417,160 – 2,342 years BP

    In January 1998, the collaborative ice-drilling project between Russia, the United States, and France at the Russian Vostok station in East Antarctica yielded the deepest ice core ever recovered, reaching a depth of 3,623 m (Petit et al. 1997, 1999). Ice cores are unique with their entrapped air inclusions enabling direct records of past changes in atmospheric trace-gas composition. Preliminary data indicate the Vostok ice-core record extends through four climate cycles, with ice slightly older than 400 kyr (Petit et al. 1997, 1999). Because air bubbles do not close at the surface of the ice sheet but only near the firn-ice transition (that is, at ~90 m below the surface at Vostok), the air extracted from the ice is younger than the surrounding ice (Barnola et al. 1991). Using semiempirical models of densification applied to past Vostok climate conditions, Barnola et al. (1991) reported that the age difference between air and ice may be ~6000 years during the coldest periods instead of ~4000 years, as previously assumed. Ice samples were cut with a bandsaw in a cold room (at about -15ยฐC) as close as possible to the center of the core in order to avoid surface contamination (Barnola et al. 1983). Gas extraction and measurements were performed with the "Grenoble analytical setup," which involved crushing the ice sample (~40 g) under vacuum in a stainless-steel container without melting it, expanding the gas released during the crushing in a pre-evacuated sampling loop, and analyzing the CO2 concentrations by gas chromatography (Barnola et al. 1983). The analytical system, except for the stainless-steel container in which the ice was crushed, was calibrated for each ice sample measurement with a standard mixture of CO2 in nitrogen and oxygen. For further details on the experimental procedures and the dating of the successive ice layers at Vostok, see Barnola et al. (1987, 1991), Lorius et al. (1985), and Petit et al. (1999).

    There is a close correlation between Antarctic temperature and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (Barnola et al. 1987). The extension of the Vostok CO2 record shows that the main trends of CO2 are similar for each glacial cycle. Major transitions from the lowest to the highest values are associated with glacial-interglacial transitions. During these transitions, the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 rises from 180 to 280-300 ppmv (Petit et al. 1999). The extension of the Vostok CO2 record shows the present-day levels of CO2 are unprecedented during the past 420 kyr. Pre-industrial Holocene levels (~280 ppmv) are found during all interglacials, with the highest values (~300 ppmv) found approximately 323 kyr BP. When the Vostok ice core data were compared with other ice core data (Delmas et al. 1980; Neftel et al. 1982) for the past 30,000 – 40,000 years, good agreement was found between the records: all show low CO2 values [~200 parts per million by volume (ppmv)] during the Last Glacial Maximum and increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations associated with the glacial-Holocene transition. According to Barnola et al. (1991) and Petit et al. (1999) these measurements indicate that, at the beginning of the deglaciations, the CO2 increase either was in phase or lagged by less than ~1000 years with respect to the Antarctic temperature, whereas it clearly lagged behind the temperature at the onset of the glaciations.

    Barnola, J.-M., D. Raynaud, A. Neftel, and H. Oeschger. 1983. Comparison of CO2 measurements by two laboratories on air from bubbles in polar ice. Nature 303:410-13.

    Barnola, J.-M., D. Raynaud, Y.S. Korotkevich, and C. Lorius. 1987. Vostok ice core provides 160,000-year record of atmospheric CO2. Nature 329:408-14.

    Barnola, J.-M., P. Pimienta, D. Raynaud, and Y.S. Korotkevich. 1991. CO2-climate relationship as deduced from the Vostok ice core: A re-examination based on new measurements and on a re-evaluation of the air dating. Tellus 43(B):83- 90.

    Delmas, R.J., J.-M. Ascencio, and M. Legrand. 1980. Polar ice evidence that atmospheric CO2 20,000 yr BP was 50% of present. Nature 284:155-57.

    Jouzel, J., C. Lorius, J.R. Petit, C. Genthon, N.I. Barkov, V.M. Kotlyakov, and V.M. Petrov. 1987. Vostok ice core: A continuous isotopic temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160,000 years). Nature 329:403-8.

    Lorius, C., J. Jouzel, C. Ritz, L. Merlivat, N.I. Barkov, Y.S. Korotkevich, and V.M. Kotlyakov. 1985. A 150,000-year climatic record from Antarctic ice. Nature 316:591-96.

    Neftel, A., H. Oeschger, J. Schwander, B. Stauffer, and R. Zumbrunn. 1982. Ice core measurements give atmospheric CO2 content during the past 40,000 yr. Nature 295:220-23.

    Pepin, L., D. Raynaud, J.-M. Barnola, and M.F. Loutre. 2001. Hemispheric roles of climate forcings during glacial-interglacial transitions as deduced from the Vostok record and LLN-2D model experiments. Journal of Geophysical Research 106 (D23): 31,885-31,892.

    Petit, J.R., I. Basile, A. Leruyuet, D. Raynaud, C. Lorius, J. Jouzel, M. Stievenard, V.Y. Lipenkov, N.I. Barkov, B.B. Kudryashov, M. Davis, E. Saltzman, and V. Kotlyakov. 1997. Four climate cycles in Vostok ice core. Nature 387: 359-360.

    Petit, J.R., J. Jouzel, D. Raynaud, N.I. Barkov, J.-M. Barnola, I. Basile, M. Benders, J. Chappellaz, M. Davis, G. Delayque, M. Delmotte, V.M. Kotlyakov, M. Legrand, V.Y. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, L. Pรฉpin, C. Ritz, E. Saltzman, and M. Stievenard. 1999. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399: 429-436.

    Raynaud, D., and J.-M. Barnola. 1985. An Antarctic ice core reveals atmospheric CO2 variations over the past few centuries. Nature 315:309-11.

    CITE AS: Barnola, J.-M., D. Raynaud, C. Lorius, and N.I. Barkov. 2003. Historical CO2 record from the Vostok ice core. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.

    Revised February 2003

  30. Hi, I'm atika from, we would like to use your video to spread among indonesian educators, can we contribute the subtitle in Indonesian language? Thanks

  31. Not sure what the Tetris mรฉtaphore was?! Desperate attempt to make it โ€œrelรจventโ€ to kids? They will see through the patronising non-relationship I think.

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