What is carbon? Carbon is the magic element that is the basis of life on Earth. All living things contain carbon. Animals breathe it out, and plants breathe it in.
Plants, people and animals depend on each other. For hundreds of millions of years, plants and animals have lived and died. Their remains have gotten buried deep below Earth’s surface. So, lots of carbon has gotten squished and cooked by lots of pressure and heat, turning it into fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas.
Fossil fuels now energize our world. We burn these fossil fuels in power plants for energy and in our cars, trucks, planes, and boats.
When fossil fuels burn, we mostly get three things: heat, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). We also get some solid forms of carbon, like soot. All that carbon stored in all those plants and animals over hundreds of millions of years is getting pumped back into the SKY. It goes up in the atmosphere and traps heat close to Earth. The greenhouse effect keeps us all from freezing, but CO2 is now holding too much heat and the Earth is getting warmer and warmer.