Medicine or poison? When it comes to carbon dioxide the keyword is concentration

Carbon dioxide and the environment

We now know that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming. But wait, what is carbon dioxide? Let’s dive into a good old chemistry and physics class: someone may have already told you that these molecules of co2 – a.k.a. carbon dioxide – are what traps heat into the atmosphere. How do they do it? Sun rays reach Earth, the ground absorbs some of the energy, but much of it immediately bounces back as infrared waves, which we perceive as heat. Those waves travel into the atmosphere and would normally escape back into space, if left undisturbed. Other elements like oxygen and nitrogen don’t interfere with the infrared waves, but the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does so. Basically Co2 is receptive to the same range of wavelength as the infrared waves, so it absorbs them and refracts them all over the place: half go out into space, half come back to Earth, as heat. The current carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been in the last 3 million years, and all the carbon dioxide we dump into the atmosphere – by burning fossil fuels – will linger for hundreds of years.