How does carbon affect climate change?

1 Answer
Aug 30, 2014

Carbon doesn't have much effect on climate change, but some carbon compounds have a large effect by causing global warming.

The main cause of global warming is the "greenhouse effect" — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.

Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect include:

  • Carbon dioxide
    The atmospheric concentration of CO₂ has increased from 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million in the last 150 years. This is the most important long-lived "forcing" of climate change.

  • Methane
    Methane is 300 times more active as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but it is also much less abundant in the atmosphere.

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
    Chlorofluorocarbons are synthetic compounds containing C, H, and F.

  • Carbon tetrachloride
    Carbon tetrachloride is a former dry cleaning and fire extinguishing fluid. It is a lesser known but still important greenhouse gas.