How does the chemistry of carbon relate to global warming?

A carbon atom has a nucleus like most atoms, and inside the nucleus contains protons and neutrons. Around the nucleus, is the inner shell. The inner shell has 2 electrons. That’s all that shell of the carbon atom wants/needs. On the outer shell/cloud are 4 valence electrons. What makes an electron valence is that it’s on the outside shell/cloud. The carbon atom wants 4 more valence electrons, therefore it means it has 4 open “hands.” Its good to keep in mind that every atom wants 8 valence electrons, so much to the point of stealing another atom’s electron. The oxygen atom has 6 valence electrons and wants 8. Therefore has 2 hands open. Carbon dioxide (CO2) results when two oxygen atoms share valence electrons with a single carbon atom. Carbon dioxide is a gas at normal temperatures and when biological processes create carbon dioxide, the gas escapes to the atmosphere. Methane (CH4) is a gas that is made up of 4 hydrogen atoms sharing valence electrons with one carbon atom. Methane is created when animals digest plants and it is released through excretion. It is also a gas at normal temperatures. It is one of the main things that is polluting our Earth. One of the main sources of methane, as I mentioned earlier, is cow farts. The opposite of a carbon source is a carbon sink. The difference is that the carbon sink is a place that stores carbon. Example are the ocean and the soil. If we till the soil, it will cause the carbon to escape the soil and go into the atmosphere. It will also prevent the soil from getting its carbon. Healthy soil is when it has a good amount of carbon. 
  A group of atoms that have formed/come together, is called a bond. There are two types of bonds, a covalent bond, and an ionic bond. A covalent bond is when atoms share electrons. An example of this is H2O, the water molecule. Two hydrogen atoms each share an electron with an oxygen atom in order to bring oxygen to 8 valence electrons. The other type of bond, an ionic bond, occurs when 2 atoms give up or gain electrons to become either positively or negatively charged, and then they are attracted to each other because they are opposite charges. An example of this is NaCl, table salt. Something that frequently comes about, are acids and bases. An acid is something that gives an electron, a base is something that accepts it. When they are mixed together, you have to either balance it out, or neutralize it. This has an environmental connection by the means of that coal plants expel sulfur dioxide which then when it exits the plant, mixes with oxygen and water, therefore creating acid rain. Which is not very good. Overall, it is good to know the basics of the chemistry of carbon in order to get to understand why climate change is a problem and why it’s occurring. - Emily

Carbon is the main contributor to global warming because it is a part of every living thing. During photosynthesis plants take carbon and add energy from the sun to it to make long strands of carbon that make sugars and starches. Plants are then full of carbon and when they die they end up getting absorbed by the soil. When farmers till the land they pull up all of the carbon from the dead plants that the ground was holding. Soil contains microscopic organisms that breaks down organic matter. These microorganisms need oxygen to fuel this process. Tilling adds oxygen to soil and thus adds speeds up the breakdown of the organic matter. - Josh

Us humans and all other living and once living things are carbon-based life forms. The carbon comes from any food we eat, and we release carbon dioxide when we breathe out. The problem with carbon is that we are now unbalancing the cycle by putting too much carbon into the atmosphere. We are doing this by driving cars that run off of oil and other things like using planes to ship food and boats to ship other things etc. Now you might ask “what happens when too much carbon gets released." Well we get this thing called the "greenhouse effect" that basically causes the earth and it’s atmosphere to turn into a “greenhouse” by trapping heat near the surface of the planet. All this carbon that’s trapped in the atmosphere isn’t just causing global warming. The warm temperatures are also causing other things such as, flash floods, tornados and other global hazards. Now you might be really concerned and ask “what can we do about it” well if you are interested I suggest to KEEP READING!!! - Piper


Carbon Dioxide (CO2) acts as a greenhouse gas, allowing the atmosphere to absorb extra infrared radiation, which eventually will heat up the atmosphere. It is also getting into the hydrosphere and making the ocean waters acidify. The CO2 is being released into the atmosphere because fossil fuels are being burned and trees are being cut down releasing extra CO2 into the atmosphere. - CJ


There are many carbon sinks on planet Earth, one of which is the topsoil, which can keep carbon from going into the atmosphere, while using it to feed micro-organisms.  When humans started to figure out agriculture and farming in the same place, they started to till the soil, which released the carbon from the soil and it started to gather in the atmosphere.  All the while, humans started to live in great cities or kingdoms and they started to burn coal to keep them warm.  Coal is also stored carbon so when they burn it it puts all of the coal in the atmosphere.  The only reason carbon, a building block of our Earth is hurting our Earth is because when the sun shines onto our Earth, the heat would normally just bounce off the ground and head back up to the atmosphere.  Now, there is so much carbon up in the atmosphere that the heat will just keep bouncing back and forth keeping our Earth very warm into the night when it is not winter (unless you live in an area that is cold all year long).  - Alan



All living organisms are carbon-based, which means that carbon is essential to all life on earth.  Plants take in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen that is then breathed in by animals such as humans.  “Organic Matter” is the remains of a carbon-based organism that was previously alive but now isn’t.  Organic Matter is crucial to maintaining healthy soil, as it provides a source of carbon.  This cycle of plants putting out oxygen for animals to breath and animals exhaling CO2 for plants to intake, and the earth absorbing carbon and giving it back to plants creates a potentially symbiotic relationship.  However, when the plants that take in this carbon are destroyed or cut down, the carbon they would have absorbed instead goes into the atmosphere. Similarly, when soil is tilled it breaks up the topsoil that holds the soil's carbon and nutrients, and allows its contents to escape into the atmosphere.  After being tilled, soil is fully exposed to harmful direct sunlight, and according to Andy’s friend “bare soil is dying soil”.  This upheaval of carbon releases millions of tons of it into our atmosphere annually.  The problem is there are more “sources” of carbon (eg. factories, cars, airplanes etc.) being built to sustain the worlds ever growing population, but there are more and more carbon “sinks” (things that absorb carbon such as soil, oceans, plants, trees etc.) being destroyed, polluted and over-tilled every year. In fact, the table that your device may be sitting on at this very moment was once a carbon-absorbing tree, but now it’s a table. The abundance of carbon sources and the loss of carbon sinks means there is more carbon is our atmosphere.  Basically there are more and more things producing carbon and less and less to absorb it, this phenomenon has released millions of tons of carbon into our atmosphere over the past century. There is now over 400 parts per million within the atmosphere, 50 parts per million above the recommended 350. In fact, over the last 15 years there has been an unusual spike of natural disasters, including flooding, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. This spike is, of course, caused by climate change, and one of the factors to cause climate change is the constant release of carbon from our soil.   - Aidan


The reason we have climate change is because of the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The carbon sources are the things that release that carbon into the atmosphere. Some examples of carbon sources are coal power plants and cow farts. In order to understand carbon a little bit better, you will need to know the basics of carbon chemistry. 

Carbon is the main reason that climate change exists. When carbon is burned in factories, power plants and vehicles, it goes into the atmosphere and floats around. When sunlight reflects off of our planet, some of it can't get out because a wall of carbon stops it. This heats up the planet. Also, when plants do photosynthesis, they also put long strings of carbon (sugars and startches) into the soil. These sugars are eaten by microorganisms and eventually released and taken into the plants once more, creating an endless loop. However, in this loop the plant creates more carbon than it can take in, which leaves extra carbon in the earth. Another way that carbon is involved with climate change is with the soil. The soil is full of carbon; in some cases the soil is a carbon sink, and it stores carbon, and in other instances it is a carbon source and gives off carbon. As you may have guessed, when the soil is a carbon source, it is encouraging climate change and when it is a carbon sink it is stopping it. In conclusion, carbon is the root of climate change and it is the thing we need to stop burning.      - Owen

Organic farmers try to minimize tilling and they plant cover crops to release carbon into the soil. Organic farming is a process of farming that includes not using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic farming also minimizes water loss through soils by keeping the top soil healthy and minimizing the carbon loss through tilling.     - Hudson


Global Warming is majorly caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases. Almost three fourths of greenhouse gases (72%) emitted are CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), another 18% is methane, along with 9% being nitrous oxide. This being said, carbon dioxide is the most serious global warming source. - Henry

CO2 - the major cause of global warming | Time for change

The basic cause of climate change is carbon not going back into the soil and staying in the atmosphere. The actual carbon pools are the atmosphere, the oceans, fossil areas, the soil, and the biosphere. Currently those carbon pools are unbalanced and carbon is being moved from the soil, the biosphere, and fossil areas into the oceans and the atmosphere. Now to the actual chemistry. CO2 is the formula of carbon dioxide, which is the main type of carbon found in the atmosphere that causes global climate change. Since forests are being cut down and we use other carbon storages as fuel, CO2 is trapped in the atmosphere and is slowly sinking into the ocean. Destroying carbon sinks turn them not carbon sources that emit carbon into atmosphere. Carbon sources are basically what cause global warming. - Ryan


When people use some organic farming practices, they do not till the soil as much. Tilling the soil can release soil carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. - Leo


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