Why is carbon important to understand?
Carbon isn’t all bad. It makes up the basic building blocks of all organic life, from plants and animals, to soil and human beings. Much of our planet’s carbon is found in rocks and sediment. The remainder can be found stored inside living and dead organisms; in the ocean, as organic matter in the soil, and in the atmosphere. All of which are known as carbon “sinks”.
When we talk about climate change, we often are talking about greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide (CO2) - the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. The main issue being that, while carbon is naturally part of our atmosphere, too much of it is toxic to both us and the planet. In 2019, carbon dioxide accounted for around 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States. Fortunately, natural resources (like the ocean and rainforests) can store and remove this carbon from the atmosphere before it reaches toxic levels.