(noun) A basic element (from the periodic table; Carbon, represented as 6C), which forms organic compounds with other elements. In its pure state carbon occurs as graphite and diamond; and as charcoal in an impure state.
Related: Carbon Dioxide is a gas containing carbon that is produced by both natural processes (such as decomposition) and human-driven processes (such as burning fossil fuels). Carbon dioxide gas or “emissions” are being released into the atmosphere at a higher rate than ever, making them a central cause of concern with regards to climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases (GHGs) contributing to the rising temperatures of our planet.
Carbon is regarded by many as the building block of all life! It’s the second most abundant element in the human body after oxygen and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass. How is this possible? It combines with other elements to make compounds; and in fact, it has a higher number of compounds than any other element and is often referred to as “the king of elements”. It is the main component of biological compounds and a major part of many minerals.
An important note is that there is a limited, or “finite”, amount of carbon in our biosphere and it is governed by the natural carbon cycle. This cycle describes the movement of carbon throughout the biosphere as it is used and recycled, and works together with the water and nitrogen cycle to sustain life on earth. The carbon cycle includes key natural processes like the long-term process of carbon sequestration; and others, such as the release of carbon into the atmosphere from disturbed carbon sinks and the burning of fossil fuels.
Another point of environmental interest is what is known as the “deep carbon cycle”. This cycle is not as well understood as other carbon processes; however, it is important because it transports mass quantities of carbon through the earth, and if the process didn’t exist the carbon would remain in the atmosphere and build up to extremely high levels effectively warming our planet over time. Essentially, the deep carbon cycle allows carbon to return to the earth; and we humans, plants, and animals need as much of it to remain there for as long as possible.