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What's Up in the Environment?
1. carbon dioxide:
One part carbon and two parts oxygen, carbon dioxide is one of the many gases that compose the earth's atmosphere. When we burn fossil fuels, like coal or gasoline for energy, carbon dioxide gets released into the atmosphere. Humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide during respiration.

2. carbon sequestration:
The net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere into long-lived pools of carbon. Scientists at Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center are studying deep-sea and underground sequestration.

3. ecosystem:
An ecological community together with its environment, functioning as a unit.

4. fossil fuels:
Fuels formed from the fossilized remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. After these plants and animals died, they decomposed and became buried under layers of earth. The pressure and heat from the earth pressed these remains and formed oil, coal, and natural gas.

5. global warming:
Many scientists predict that the earth’s climate will continue to rise due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

6. greenhouse effect:
A natural occurring process in which the earth's atmosphere (composed of many gases including carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor) maintains the earth's warm temperature. The burning of fossil fuels has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and other human activities have increased methane and nitrogen levels, leading to a stronger greenhouse effect and warmer temperatures.

7. photosynthesis
The process in which plants (as well as some bacteria and protistans) use sunlight to produce sugar. Most of the time, the photosynthetic process uses water and carbon dioxide and releases the oxygen that we breathe to stay alive.

8. sclerochronology
The science that studies the hard parts of marine animals (coral, clam shells, gastropods) to decipher past climate conditions.

9. sink
About half of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities remains in the atmosphere. Sinks--the ocean and land and freshwater ecosystems--uptake the remaining CO2 and act as natural storage tanks. Scientists can accurately measure atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, but cannot measure carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and land ecosystems with certainty.

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