Q:

What is carbon dioxide?

A:

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.

Know More
What is carbon dioxide?
Credit: Andrew W.B. Leonard Moment Getty Images

Full Answer

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.

Learn more about Environmental Science

Related Questions

  • 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.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • 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.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What causes the greenhouse effect?

    A:

    Heat energy comes to the Earth as sunlight and leaves in the form of infrared radiation, but greenhouses gases trap some of the radiation before it can escape the atmosphere again, leading to the "greenhouse effect." This gives the atmosphere a great deal of its ambient warmth. However, as greenhouse gases have increased their presence in the environment, the temperature of the Earth has risen as a result.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What caused the hole in the ozone layer?

    A:

    The gaping hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere over the Antarctic was caused primarily by high concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals called CFCs. The vast hole in the ozone was discovered by scientists in the 1980s, who upon discovering the dramatic loss in ozone cover, set to work determining a primary cause. They found excessive concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the area of concern; CFCs were frequently used as additives in spray cans and refrigerants, but are now banned in most areas of the world.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore