Q:

What is carbon dioxide?

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Quick Answer

Carbon dioxide is a colorless, non-organic compound that is a gas at room temperature and comprises about 0.03 percent of Earth's atmosphere. It is produced when materials that contain carbon are combusted, and it is one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases that trap heat within the Earth's atmosphere.

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What is carbon dioxide?
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Chemically, each molecule of carbon dioxide is composed of one atom or carbon and two atoms of oxygen, covalently bound together. Carbon dioxide gas is produced and excreted naturally by animals as a byproduct of respiration. Whenever you exhale, you are excreting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is also used by plants to conduct photosynthesis, the complex series of reactions through which they are able to make glucose.

Carbon dioxide is of particular interest because of its classification as a greenhouse gas. Human activity is responsible for releasing increasing amounts of this gas into the atmosphere in recent years. Carbon dioxide is released when fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and natural gas are burned for heat, electricity and transportation. According to the EPA, emissions of carbon dioxide in the United States increased about 10 percent from 1990 to 2011. Experts believe that the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming, and that reducing carbon dioxide emissions can help slow this process.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the main sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

    A:

    The main sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are decaying plants, waste products as a result of the respiration of animals and volcanic eruptions. Human activity also releases carbon dioxide into the air. The main source of this carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels.

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  • Q:

    How does carbon dioxide cause global warming?

    A:

    Carbon dioxide contributes significantly to global warming by entering the atmosphere and waterways through many human activities, such as farming, industrial operations and changes in land use, primarily to agricultural production. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally through some activities, such as plant respiration, volcanic activities and the interaction between oceanic waters and the surrounding air. However, human activities increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, which in turn offsets the delicate balance of gases in the atmosphere and air temperature.

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  • Q:

    Why is the carbon cycle important?

    A:

    The carbon cycle is important because all living things are made of carbon in one way or another. The carbon cycle is how carbon is exchanged throughout the earth: between the atmosphere, oceans, ecosystem and geosphere. If the carbon cycle fails, then life begins to break down, causing life to end.

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  • Q:

    How does deforestation affect the hydrosphere?

    A:

    Deforestation reduces the recycling of water from land to the atmosphere and back by up to 75 percent. The hydrosphere consists of all the various forms of water on the Earth, and deforestation radically alters the Earth's water content by reducing evaporation and soil moisture.

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