Carbon Dioxide

In chemistry, what has the chemical symbol of CO2?

And the answer: carbon dioxide.    

Carbon dioxide is the fourth most abundant gas in the Earth's atmosphere. Humans expel it when they exhale, and plants use it in their photosynthesis process. However, too much carbon dioxide can be harmful.

Photo credit: European Science Agency

Although carbon dioxide is an essential element to life processes on our planet, it's also now abundant in nearly every aspect of our modern-day life. For one, carbon dioxide is used to create sparkling beverages such as Coke and La Croix. Interestingly, it's also used in the creation of wine. Dry ice – condensed carbon dioxide – is used to cool down grapes to prevent instant fermentation.

While carbon dioxide is an incredibly helpful and prevalent gas, it can also create problems. Burning fossil fuels, for one, has created a greenhouse effect in our atmosphere. By nature, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, indicating that it has notably high levels of heat absorption and heat radiation. This means that the more fossil fuels burned, the higher levels of carbon dioxide – and consequently higher temperatures on our planet. Additionally, the acidic qualities of carbon dioxide lower the ocean's pH, potentially creating ecological instability.

Yet, carbon dioxide remains essential to the continuation of life on Earth. Without it, our oceans would be frozen solid, and our planet would not be home to an abundance of life in any form. Its regulation, though, remains essential for every species' continued thriving presence. Learn more about carbon dioxide and its effects here.

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