Microalgae are among the most productive biological systems for converting sunlight into chemical energy, which is used to capture and transform inorganic carbon into biomass. The efficiency of carbon dioxide capture depends on the cultivation system configuration (photobioreactors or open systems) and can vary according to the state of the algal physiology, the chemical composition of the nutrient medium, and environmental factors such as irradiance, temperature and pH. This mini-review is focused on some of the most important environmental factors determining photosynthetic activity, carbon dioxide biofixation, cell growth rate and biomass productivity by microalgae. These include carbon dioxide and O2 concentrations, light intensity, cultivation temperature and nutrients. Finally, a review of the operation of microalgal cultivation systems outdoors is presented as an example of the impact of environmental conditions on biomass productivity and carbon dioxide fixation.