What are greenhouse gases? Greenhouse gases are gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Their dangerous presence in the atmosphere is largely due to human industrial activity.
The greenhouse effect is the warming up of the earth’s atmosphere and its surface. This is also referred to as global warming.
Greenhouse gases contribute to the greenhouse effect in several ways. But, the main way in which they do this is by trapping the sun’s rays in our atmosphere and thus causing them to heat it up substantially more than it should do.
In sum, then, greenhouse gases:
- – Contribute to the greenhouse effect.
- – Cause global warming.
- – Are released into the atmosphere thanks to human activity.
- – Trap the sun’s rays in our atmosphere.
- – Need to be curbed urgently.
5 major greenhouse gases and their sources.
1. Carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has the chemical formula CO2. It is a very harmful and damaging greenhouse gas. This gas is released into our atmosphere largely through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. This is done in factories, power plants, the aviation industry, in everyday cars and in the shipping industry.
2. Methane. Methane is a gas produced largely by animal agriculture. The more animals that are farmed, the more of this harmful greenhouse gas will be released into our atmosphere. Cows are perhaps the animals that are responsible for the largest bulk of methane in the atmosphere and unfortunately cows are some of the most intensively farmed animals, both in the meat and in the dairy industries.
3. Nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is mainly released into our atmosphere when fertilizer is sprayed on crops as it is a key ingredient in fertilizer. By this means, it also leaches into rivers and lakes and can kill fish and plant life. This is just another example of how animal agriculture is very damaging to our environment.
4. Sulfur oxide. Sulfurous compounds are released from certain synthetic fluids used in industry (dialectric fluid to be more precise) and can stay in the atmosphere for around three thousand years. They can also be released when fossil fuels are burned. Moreover, sulfurous compounds (such as sulfur monoxide and sulfur dioxide) are a key cause of acid rain.
5. CFCS (or chlorofluorocarbons). CFCs are ingredients in liquid coolants, foams, refrigerants and (until recently) were to be found in almost all aerosol sprays. They are especially damaging to the ozone layer. It is very important to check any can of coolant or any aerosol that you are thinking of purchasing to see if it contains any CFCs. If it does, do not purchase or use it.
It is actually beneficial for humans to have a small level of CO2 and nitrogen in the atmosphere alongside the other gases that are present there such as oxygen. However, the huge levels of greenhouse gases that are being pumped into the atmosphere at the moment are harmful not only to the climate but to our respiratory health. There are several other greenhouse gases that have not been mentioned in this article. These include tropospheric ozone and HCFCs.