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Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is among the most prevalent gaseous materials in the world. It is found nearly everywhere in the Earth's atmosphere, and plays an important part in many biological processes. Human beings release carbon dioxide during natural metabolic processes, while plants use carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. It is also used in many popular items including fizzy drinks, yeast and baked goods, and “dry” fire extinguishers.
The properties of carbon dioxide can be categorized by whether they describe the physical, chemical, or environmental features of this gas. Physically, carbon dioxide is very stable, and is largely unaffected as it interacts with many other materials in the atmosphere. The physical properties of this substance can vary by temperature however. While this material is a gas under most conditions, carbon dioxide forms a solid substance at temperatures below -70 degrees Celsius (-94° Fahrenheit). It may also transform into a liquid when it is dissolved in water under constant pressure.
From a chemical or molecular standpoint, the properties of carbon dioxide are fairly constant under a wide range of conditions. A single carbon dioxide unit will always consist of a single carbon atom bonded to two atoms of oxygen. This bond is very strong, and helps to make carbon dioxide one of the most stable of all molecules.
Chemical properties of carbon dioxide are generally related to its level of acidity. While most carbon dioxide units are slightly acidic by nature, the level of acidity can be modified by dissolving the molecules in water. This process is performed in laboratories or industrial facilities because of the highly specialized nature of this work.
As concerns over global warming and climate change have increased, the properties of carbon dioxide have become a major source of debate for politicians and environmental activists. Carbon dioxide is considered a type of greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming by trapping heat within the Earth's atmosphere. As the heat is unable to escape, the temperature of the earth is increased, which may have devastating impacts on the environment and all life on earth.
In order to minimize the effects of global warming, people can work to offset or minimize their carbon output. One way to do this is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Processes that rely on oil-based energy sources release carbon dioxide as a natural by-product. To minimize greenhouse gas production, we can turn to cleaner energy sources such as solar or wind-based systems.