The Harmful Effects of Greenhouse Gases on Planet Earth
There are gases in the atmosphere called greenhouse gases that absorb and trap heat. Some of these gases are emitted naturally—for example, methane from wetlands and nitrous oxide from agricultural soil. The primary source of GHGs, however, is human activity, including deforestation, industrial processes, and the burning of fossil fuels for energy.
What Are Greenhouse Gases?
The average temperature of Planet Earth is around 14°C or 57°F. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not just a number. Yet we want this number to be as low as possible.
And the way we get there is by preventing greenhouse gases that act like a blanket, trapping heat and raising Planet Earth’s temperature.
Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap heat from the sun and make it warmer on Earth than it would otherwise be.
In simple terms, greenhouse gases are those gases which cause heat to be retained inside a room or a building, making it warmer inside than outside.
Gases in the earth’s atmosphere which, when heated, cause the planet to retain heat are known as greenhouse gases.
This phenomenon was named after the characteristic structure of greenhouses, which traps heat inside and makes it warmer inside than outside. This gave rise to many interesting technologies related to greenhouse gases.
The most important natural greenhouse gases include water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Water vapour is naturally present in high concentrations within our atmosphere because of evaporation from oceans, lakes, etc. Water is a very important component of our planet’s weather system. Its presence allows life on earth to exist as we know it today.
How Greenhouse Gases Affect Planet Earth
Greenhouse gases (GHG) are a naturally occurring part of Planet Earth’s atmosphere. However, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are currently increasing because of human activities.
The rise in concentrations of gases since the industrial revolution has been tied to an increase in global temperatures and climate change.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1896, published a paper explaining how carbon dioxide could make the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be.
In this way, we can think of greenhouse gases as another name for CO2 and other heat-trapping gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about how human activity is contributing to climate change by increasing levels of GHG emissions into the atmosphere.
This has led policymakers to consider ways to reduce these emissions to mitigate further climate change effects like extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
Carbon dioxide is one of the most important greenhouse gases emitted by human activities. It accounts for over 80% of all radiative forcing — the warming effect on our planet — caused by human activity since the 1750s.
This GHG is released into the atmosphere when we burn coal, oil or natural gas for energy or transportation. When we cut down forests or use fertilisers. And even from manufacturing products like plastics that contain CO2 emissions embedded within them.
Start Caring About Carbon Emissions
When humans burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas we release carbon — carbon dioxide. And when we do that, we add to the amount of carbon in our atmosphere.
That’s called “carbon pollution” and it’s changing our planet for the worse.
In fact, carbon pollution is so bad that it’s making Earth warmer than it should be — leading to climate change. In turn, climate change is making extreme weather like hurricanes and wildfires more frequent and intense than they would otherwise be.
Carbon pollution also threatens the health of people around the world by contributing to air pollution. This is increasing asthma attacks in children and other respiratory problems across the world every year.
You can help solve this problem by reducing your carbon footprint. That means using less energy every day so that you don’t produce as much pollution into the environment.
The easiest way to do this is by turning off lights when you leave rooms or unplugging electronics when they’re not being used. It also helps if you take public transportation instead of driving yourself everywhere.
The more carbon we release into the atmosphere, the warmer our planet gets. And if we don’t stop emitting carbon soon, it could get so hot that even the polar bears will have to move south!
Methane Gas and Its Effects on Life
Burning coal or natural gas can emit small amounts of methane into the air. It’s also produced when rice paddies are drained, and in landfills where organic waste is decaying.
Methane is a greenhouse gas, meaning it traps heat more effectively than carbon dioxide. But methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and therefore, has a smaller effect on global warming.
That’s because methane breaks down in the atmosphere more quickly than carbon dioxide does. Methane has an estimated atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years.
Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, can stay in the atmosphere for hundreds or even thousands of years after being released into the atmosphere.
Because methane breaks down more quickly than carbon dioxide, it doesn’t contribute to climate change as much as carbon dioxide does. But it still contributes significantly to warming in its short lifetime.
Methane is a greenhouse gas produced by living organisms and by natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and erosion of organic matter by water or wind.
It’s also produced by human activity, such as fossil fuel extraction and agriculture.
Nitrous Oxide Is Adding to Global Warming
Today, most nitrous oxide is a by-product of chemical fertilisers used in agriculture and some industrial processes.
However, the bulk of this gas does not come from man-made sources, but from natural biological sources such as soil microbes and oceans.
About 250 million kg of N2O is produced every year, mostly by microbial or industrial processes, and this amount is expected to double by the year 2050.
Most of the world’s supply of N2O comes from synthetic materials and man-made substances such as nylon, certain pesticides, paints, and rocket fuels.
Nitrous oxide or laughing gas is a filling gas used in medical and dental procedures.
The gas has also been used recreationally since 1799, when it was discovered by the British scientist, Sir Humphry Davy, in his study of nitrous oxide’s intoxicating effects.
It’s a harmless gas at normal levels but can cause headaches and dizziness if taken in large amounts or breathed for long periods. While most people don’t handle the gas directly, it gets into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas.
The climate is changing and one of the primary culprits is a gas which occurs naturally and is also used in industry and in motor vehicle engines: nitrous oxide (N2O).
It contributes to human-made climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. This makes it one of the most important greenhouse gases, despite occurring at very low levels.
Deforestation Is Contributing to Climate Change
Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests. This process helps large corporations and government bodies find new ways to control, exploit and take advantage of forested areas all around the world.
Deforestation is one of the biggest threats to our planet. Even a small reduction in deforestation can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change.
In addition to this destruction, deforestation results in carbon emissions, a greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees as they grow.
The more trees we cut down every year, the more carbon dioxide is released into the air.
Deforestation also leads to soil erosion and land degradation because it removes important soil nutrients. If left unchecked, these processes can lead to desertification and irreversible loss of agricultural productivity.
Deforestation can be influenced by human activities, such as agriculture, timber extraction, mining, firewood collection, and urbanisation. As well as other economic activities that demand space or resources.
Globally, it has been estimated that approximately 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions are derived from deforestation.
Deforestation causes more carbon dioxide release than any other land use change activity. This is because it involves both burning fossil fuels as energy sources and using fossil fuels to transport materials required for deforestation activities.
It is imperative that we change our behaviour to reduce our release of greenhouse gases.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report that is the most up-to-date assessment of the state of climate science.
The report confirms what we already know. We must change our behaviour to reduce our release of greenhouse gases and avoid the worst effects of global warming.
The IPCC report was produced by 91 authors from 40 countries who reviewed more than 6,000 scientific studies published since October 2018.
It was written from a perspective that addresses all aspects of climate change and its impacts, including how it will affect human health, food security and economic growth.
The report notes that global average surface temperatures have increased by about 1°C above pre-industrial levels. This increase has been caused by an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activities over recent decades.
To avoid dangerous levels of global warming, we must limit future emissions so that temperatures stay below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
This means reducing current emissions by half by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions sometime between 2050 and 2100. Meaning we would be polluting no more than we’re cleaning up after ourselves — while also creating carbon sinks such as forests that absorb more carbon than they emit.
We must change our behaviour to reduce our release of greenhouse gases.
We must change how we live, how we travel, how we work and how we eat. In addition, it’s also important that businesses and governments take action to reduce their emissions.
However, it’s not enough for us to simply change our behaviour — we need businesses and governments to act as well.
Greenhouse gases increase the surface temperature of Planet Earth, leading to the climate crisis. While some are natural, most result from human activity.
We can directly influence the release of greenhouse gases by what we choose to eat and how we live our lives.
We need to start thinking and acting on an individual level as well as a community and national level.
As much as possible, we should support green initiatives in our towns and cities for better air quality.
We have got to start working together to reduce emissions that drive climate change so our future generations can live healthy fair lives.
Just small changes can lead to large results and overall better life for everyone on Planet Earth.