What Are The Stages Of Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a chemical compound composed of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. It is colorless, odorless, and non-flammable. Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere as part of the Earth’s carbon cycle.

Carbon dioxide plays a crucial role on our planet. It is a greenhouse gas, meaning it helps trap heat from the sun in the atmosphere. This greenhouse effect keeps the Earth warm enough to support life. Carbon dioxide is also essential for photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy and grow. Additionally, carbon dioxide bubbles provide the fizz in carbonated beverages.


Plants absorb CO2 during photosynthesis, a process that converts sunlight into energy. Inside plant cells, CO2 is combined with water and converted into glucose sugar molecules. Oxygen is released as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis occurs in chloroplasts, small structures found in plant cells. Chloroplasts contain the green pigment chlorophyll which captures light energy. This energy is used to power photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is a critical process that makes life possible on Earth. By absorbing CO2, plants help regulate levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And by releasing oxygen, plants provide the oxygen that humans and other organisms need to breathe.

Cellular Respiration

Inside the cells of all animals and humans, a process called cellular respiration takes place which converts oxygen and food into energy and carbon dioxide. Here’s how it works:

When we breathe in, we take in oxygen from the air into our lungs. This oxygen is transported by blood to all the cells in our body. Inside each cell, the oxygen reacts with glucose and other compounds from the food we eat in a series of chemical reactions known as cellular respiration.

These reactions break down the chemical bonds in glucose to release stored energy, which is used by the cell for growth, movement, and other functions. A byproduct of cellular respiration is carbon dioxide, which diffuses out of the cell and into the bloodstream. We then exhale the carbon dioxide as a waste product when we breathe out.

This cycle occurs in the cells of all animals and humans continuously. It allows us to convert the food we eat into useful energy to power our bodies. But as a result, carbon dioxide is steadily released as a byproduct and added to the atmosphere.

Fossil Fuel Use

The burning of coal, oil, and natural gas for energy is a major source of increased carbon dioxide emissions. When fossil fuels like petroleum and coal are burned, carbon that had been stored underground for millions of years is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Fossil fuel combustion has increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. In recent years, approximately 90% of all CO2 emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil for energy use. The emissions from cars and power plants which burn fossil fuels are the primary drivers of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

According to scientific measurements, CO2 levels are now over 40% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution. This dramatic rise coincides directly with the large scale burning of fossil fuels. As countries continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and oil for energy production, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion continue to rise each year.

Ocean Absorption

ocean waves showing absorption of carbon dioxide from atmosphere

The world’s oceans play a crucial role in regulating carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. This is because seawater is able to dissolve significant amounts of CO2.

When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it reacts with water molecules to form carbonic acid. The chemical reaction looks like this:

CO2 + H2O ⇌ H2CO3

Carbonic acid is a weak acid that can further dissociate into bicarbonate and carbonate ions:

H2CO3 ⇌ HCO3− + H+

HCO3− ⇌ CO32− + H+

This capacity of oceans to dissolve atmospheric CO2 helps regulate Earth’s climate. However, increased CO2 emissions from human activities are causing more CO2 to dissolve in the oceans, resulting in ocean acidification.


Deforestation is another process that impacts the carbon cycle by reducing the absorption of carbon dioxide. Trees and other plants absorb CO2 through photosynthesis and store the carbon in their tissues. When forests are cleared or burned down, usually for agricultural or development purposes, less vegetation is available to absorb CO2 through photosynthesis.

Studies estimate that deforestation accounts for 10-15% of global CO2 emissions each year. Tropical rainforests are especially important carbon sinks, but they are being destroyed at alarming rates for cattle ranching and palm oil plantations. Preserving forests is crucial for maintaining the natural processes that absorb and store carbon. Reforestation and afforestation programs that actively replant trees have significant potential to absorb CO2 as well.

Global Warming

Carbon dioxide is one of the most significant greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming and climate change. The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas releases large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Deforestation also releases significant CO2 when trees are cut down or burned. The increased CO2 in the atmosphere acts like a blanket that traps heat from the sun that would otherwise escape into space. This causes the Earth’s overall temperature to rise over time.

Since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century, atmospheric CO2 levels have increased over 40%. Higher concentrations of CO2 trap more heat, causing the global average temperature to increase as well. All of the top 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, with 2016 being the warmest year ever recorded. Higher global temperatures lead to melting glaciers, rising sea levels, more extreme weather events like droughts and hurricanes, and major disruptions to ecosystems around the world.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated with high confidence that human activities like burning fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20th century. Reducing CO2 emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources is critical to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Even if emissions are reduced, some effects from the increased CO2 will persist for centuries due to the long atmospheric lifetime of CO2.

Carbon Capture

As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, carbon capture technology has emerged as a promising solution for reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Carbon capture involves extracting CO2 from industrial flue gases or directly from ambient air and then securely storing it so it doesn’t enter the atmosphere.

There are several different carbon capture techniques but most involve three main steps: capture, transport, and storage. To capture CO2, the most common method is to pass flue gases through a filter that selectively absorbs the CO2. Other methods involve using special solvents or chilled ammonia that bind with CO2 molecules. Once extracted, the CO2 is compressed into a liquid form for easier transport, usually via pipeline. Finally, the captured carbon is deposited and securely stored underground in geological formations or natural reservoirs.

Carbon capture technology has the potential to prevent billions of tons of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. However, it remains an expensive process. More research and development is underway to try to lower costs and improve efficiency. Widespread deployment of carbon capture could significantly reduce greenhouse gas levels, but only if paired with efforts to transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

Carbon Taxes

A carbon tax is a fee that a government imposes on any company that burns fossil fuels. The tax is proportional to the amount of CO2 the fuel will emit when burned. The goal of a carbon tax is to discourage the use of fossil fuels and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Typically, carbon taxes start out low, around $15 per ton of CO2, and increase every year. The rising cost of using coal, oil and natural gas encourages companies to switch to cleaner sources of energy. Carbon taxes also make alternative energy more cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Carbon taxes provide a financial incentive for businesses and individuals to find ways to reduce their carbon footprints. The tax revenues generated can be used to support renewable energy projects or to offset other taxes. Many economists argue that carbon taxes are the most efficient and transparent way to limit global warming pollution across the whole economy. However, carbon taxes can disproportionately affect low-income families who spend a larger share of their income on energy costs. Thoughtful policy design can address these equity concerns.


In summary, we have looked at the key stages of the carbon cycle that carbon dioxide goes through. CO2 is absorbed by plants through photosynthesis and released through respiration and decomposition. Human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation have significantly increased CO2 emissions. A portion of the CO2 released gets dissolved into the oceans but this leads to ocean acidification. Rising CO2 levels cause global warming and climate change.

It is critical that we find ways to manage CO2 levels through carbon capture technology, reforestation, renewable energy sources and other methods. Bringing net emissions to zero is important to curb climate change and create a sustainable future. The carbon cycle highlights the delicate balance of CO2 in our biosphere. With care and innovation, we can work to stabilize CO2 at safe levels.

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