An Introduction to the Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide

An Introduction to the Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide

There are four basic categories of greenhouse gases: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Fluorinated Gases.  Let’s take a look a closer look at Carbon Dioxide.


Carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas composed of one Carbon molecule and two Oxygen molecules.  This gas is produced from burning carbon and other organic compounds.  It is also, of course, a result of the mammalian respiration process. All in all, it is naturally present in the air and is absorbed by plants during their photosynthesis process.

Carbon dioxide enters our atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil; other’s too, of course. It is also a result of burning solid waste, trees and wood products, and also a result of various chemical reactions.  Of course, carbon dioxide also enters the atmosphere as a result of human and animal respiration.  Fortunately, carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere through absorption by plants (completing a biological process known as the carbon cycle).


Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activities.  As a matter of fact, carbon dioxide accounts for more than 82 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions from human sources.  These human sources include:

  • Electricity—the combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity accounts for approximately 35 percent of total CO2 emissions in the United States, as well as 29 percent of total US greenhouse emissions. Obviously, the type of fossil fuel used in the generation of electricity will emit carbon dioxide at different levels.  For example, burning coal will produce more carbon dioxide than the same amount of oil or natural gas.
  • Transportation—the combustion of fossil fuels—mostly gasoline and diesel, of course—for the transport of people and goods is the second largest CO2 emissions source in the United States. It accounts for roughly 33 percent of total US CO2 emissions and about 26 percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions
  • Industry—the combustion of fossil fuels through industrial processes accounts for roughly 15 percent of total US CO2 emissions and at least 12 percent of the total US greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial processes can refer to anything from the production and consumption of mineral products to the production of metals (iron and steel, etc) or the production of chemicals
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