5 things you should know about greenhouse gases that warm the planet-global issues

1. What is the greenhouse effect?

In the greenhouse, sunlight enters and retains heat. The greenhouse effect describes a similar phenomenon on a global scale, but certain gases are increasing the global temperature, not the glass of the greenhouse.

The earth’s surface absorbs less than half of the solar energy, while the atmosphere absorbs 23%, and the rest is reflected back to space. Natural processes ensure that the incoming and outgoing energy are equal, thus keeping the earth’s temperature stable.

However, human activities have led to an increase in so-called greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Unlike other atmospheric gases such as oxygen and nitrogen, greenhouse gases are trapped in the atmosphere and cannot escape the earth. This energy returns to the surface, where it is reabsorbed.

Because more energy enters the earth than leaves the earth, the surface temperature will rise until a new equilibrium is reached.

2. Why is warming important?

This increase in temperature will have long-term adverse effects on the climate and affect countless natural systems. Impacts include the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (including floods, droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes), which affect millions of people and cause trillions of dollars in economic losses.

“Man-made greenhouse gas emissions endanger human and environmental health,” said Mark Radka, head of the UN Environment Programme.Environment Agency) Energy and Climate Division. “Without strong climate action, the impact will become more widespread and severe.”

Greenhouse gas emissions are essential for understanding and resolving the climate crisis: although due to Coronavirus disease, The latest UNEP Emissions Gap Report It shows a rebound and predicts that the global temperature will rise by at least 2.7 degrees this century. This is catastrophic unless countries make greater efforts to reduce emissions.

The report found that if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, greenhouse gas emissions need to be halved by 2030.

Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, carbon dioxide levels have remained at record levels.

Unsplash/Johannes Plano

Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, carbon dioxide levels have remained at record levels.

3. What are the main greenhouse gases?

Water vapor is the largest overall contributor to the greenhouse effect. However, almost all water vapor in the atmosphere comes from natural processes.

Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are the main greenhouse gases to worry about. Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years, methane stays in the atmosphere for about ten years, and nitrous oxide stays in the atmosphere for about 120 years.

Measured in 20 years, methane is 80 times more effective than carbon dioxide in causing global warming, and nitrous oxide is 280 times more effective than carbon dioxide.

4. How do human activities produce these greenhouse gases?

Coal, oil and natural gas continue to power many parts of the world. Carbon is the main element in these fuels, and when they are burned to generate electricity, transport electricity, or provide heat, they produce carbon dioxide.

Oil and gas extraction, coal extraction, and landfills account for 55% of man-made methane emissions. Approximately 32% of man-made methane emissions can be attributed to cattle, sheep, and other ruminants that ferment food in their stomachs. Manure decomposition is another agricultural source of gas, as is rice cultivation.

Man-made nitrous oxide emissions mainly come from agricultural practices. Bacteria in soil and water naturally convert nitrogen to nitrous oxide, but the use of fertilizers and runoff exacerbate this process by releasing more nitrogen into the environment.

Fluorinated gases—such as hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride—are greenhouse gases that don’t occur naturally. Hydrofluorocarbons are refrigerants used as alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Due to the Montreal Protocol, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have depleted the ozone layer and have therefore been phased out. Others have industrial and commercial uses.

Although fluorinated gases are far less common than other greenhouse gases and do not deplete the ozone layer like CFCs, they are still very powerful. In 20 years, the global warming potential of some fluorinated gases is 16,300 times higher than that of CO2.

Wind farms generate electricity and reduce dependence on coal-fired energy.


Wind farms generate electricity and reduce dependence on coal-fired energy.

5. What can we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Switching to renewable energy, pricing carbon, and phasing out coal are all important factors in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the final analysis, in order to maintain the long-term health of humans and the environment, stronger emission reduction targets must be formulated.

“We need to implement strong policies to support the proposed ambitions,” Mr. Radka said. “We cannot continue along the same path and expect better results. Action is needed now.”

During COP26, the European Union and the United States initiated a global methane commitment, and more than 100 countries aim to reduce methane emissions from the fuel, agricultural, and waste sectors by 30% by 2030.

Despite the challenges, there are reasons to remain optimistic. From 2010 to 2021, compared with other situations, the annual emissions by 2030 have been reduced by 11 gigatons. Individuals can also join the UN’s #ActNow campaign to solicit ideas for active climate action.

By making choices that are less harmful to the environment, everyone can become part of the solution and influence change. Speaking out is a way to expand impact and create change on a larger scale.