C – Carbon is an element that’s found all over the world and in every living thing. O2 – Oxygen is another element that’s in the air we breathe. If carbon and oxygen bond together, they form a colorless, odorless gas called carbon dioxide, that is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Whenever we burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas – whether it’s to drive our cars, use electricity, or make products – we are producing carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth, being required for photosynthesis within plants on land and plankton in the ocean, which represent the start of the food chain. Only about 50% of the CO2 emissions of humanity shows up as an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, the other half presumably being absorbed by plants, phytoplankton, and by being dissolved in the ocean.
The atmosphere isn’t the only part of the Earth that has carbon. Our oceans store large amounts of carbon, and so do plants, soil, and deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas deep underground. Carbon naturally moves from one part of the Earth to another through the carbon cycle. But right now, by burning fossil fuels, people are adding carbon to the atmosphere (in the form of carbon dioxide) faster than natural processes can remove it. That is the reason why the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, which is causing global climate change.
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