Is Climate Change Caused By Greenhouse Gases?

  • By: Preetam
  • Date: July 10, 2021
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Humans influence the environment. Ninety-seven percent of scientists and researchers agree with the previous statement. 

The most significant influence that humans have on the environment is through burning fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases. 

These greenhouse gases then enter our atmosphere and change the equilibrium that the Earth naturally produces in its process of releasing heat back into space and out of Earth’s atmosphere. 

Our Earth and the environment that we reside in is basically just one giant greenhouse. 

Back in primary school, I learned about the greenhouse effect. 

Well, I learned the simple version, which stated that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere just like the glass of a greenhouse traps heat within its walls. 

Every single living being on Earth depends on the Sun for energy. 

This energy from the Sun comes in the form of radiation. 

The oceans and land soak the radiation up and use the energy. 

The rest of the radiation would typically be reflected back into the atmosphere. 

Due to the increase in greenhouse gases being pumped out into the atmosphere, heat is increasingly trapped inside Earth’s atmosphere instead of escaping back into space as it should. 

The act of the greenhouse gas emissions trapping heat in the atmosphere is the identifying factor that creates climate change. 

Instead of the normal cycle of heat passing in and out of the atmosphere, it is now staying in the atmosphere making our environment hotter and hotter. 

How do greenhouse gases contribute to climate change?

A greenhouse gas is any form of gaseous substance that has the capability of absorbing radiation from the Earth and trapping it inside the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Greenhouse gases hold heat in the atmosphere trapping it so it is unable to escape into space like it usually would. 

Greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which is a process that leads to climate change and global warming. 

According to an article written by Nasa’s Earth Observatory

“Roughly 30 percent of incoming sunlight is reflected back into space by bright surfaces like clouds and ice. Of the remaining 70 percent, most are absorbed by the land and ocean, and the rest is absorbed by the atmosphere. 

The absorbed solar energy heats our planet.”

As the land and oceans heat up, they release heat in the form of IR Thermal radiation, which passes out of the atmosphere and into space or at least it should. 

This is the usual process in which the Earth is supposed to operate. 

This process is the reason that the Earth is habitable. 

This process creates a sort of equilibrium for the habitats and environments on Earth. 

Without this process, the Earth would most likely be as cold and lifeless as the moon. 

What percent of climate change is caused by greenhouse gases?

Carbon dioxide produced by human activities is one of the primary greenhouse gases. It is also the most significant contributor to global warming.

 According to the European Commission, “By 2020, its concentration in the atmosphere had risen to 48% above its pre-industrial level (before 1750).”

How do greenhouse gases affect the Earth’s climate?

Each greenhouse gas that is emitted into the atmosphere affects the Earth and its climate in different ways. 

Three main factors contribute to how much they affect the environment:

  1. The amount of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration or abundance of a particular greenhouse gas in the atmosphere indicates how much the greenhouse gas will affect climate change. 
  • More significant amounts of emissions of a particular greenhouse gas lead to higher concentrations of that gas in the atmosphere. This is a simple observation, but the complexity is how much the concentration and abundance of that greenhouse gas affect the atmosphere. 
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions, carbon dioxide makes up about eighty percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Methane follows with ten percent, Nitrous oxide with seven percent, and fluorinated gases with three percent.
  1. How long the greenhouse gas stays in the atmosphere.
  • Each of the different greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere varying different amounts of time. They range anywhere from a few years to thousands of years. Obviously, this can cause a significant difference in how much the gases affect the environment through climate change. 
  • An interesting fact about greenhouse gases is that every single one remains in the atmosphere long enough to mix. This means that the amount measured at any given point in the world is roughly the same as any other point around the world.  
  1. The strength at which the greenhouse gas stays in the atmosphere.
  • Certain greenhouse gasses are more potent than other greenhouse gases meaning they heat the Earth faster than the other greenhouse gases. 

What gases are causing the greenhouse effect on climate change?

Humans are causing the greenhouse effect to expand and grow worse as each year passes. 

The greenhouse effect refers to the warming that results from the atmosphere trapping heat radiating from Earth toward space. 

Certain gases in the atmosphere block heat from escaping into space like normal. 

These gases include:

  • Fluorinated Gases
    • These are synthetic and potent greenhouse gases made by humans through industrial processes. These gases include:
      • Hydrofluorocarbons
      • Perfluorocarbons
      • Sulfur hexafluoride
      • Nitrogen trifluoride
  • Nitrous Oxide
    • Nitrous oxide gases are formed primarily through soil cultivation practices, specifically through commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning.
  • Carbon Dioxide
    • Carbon dioxide is emitted through natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions and human activities such as deforestation, land-use changes, and burning fossil fuels. 
  • Methane
    • Methane is a hydrocarbon gas produced through natural sources as well as human activities. These human activities include:
      • Agriculture
      • Manure Management
      • Decomposition of Waste in Landfills

How do greenhouse gases contribute to climate change?

The primary driver for global warming and climate change is the greenhouse effect caused by humans releasing greenhouse gases into the air through industrial and human processes. 

But, yes, some greenhouse gases are produced through natural occurrences, 

which include:

  • Respiration of Plants
  • Decomposition of Plants
  • Ocean’s Natural Release of Greenhouse Gases

The release of naturally occurring greenhouse gases makes up only a small percent of greenhouse gas emissions overall. 

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “Global surface temperature has increased ≈0.2°C per decade in the past 30 years.” 

When the Earth’s temperature changes even just a little bit, it has monumental effects on our environment. 

Even just a couple of degrees warmer could wipe out humanity. 

Quite possibly, catastrophic changes could be on our horizon if we do not make a conscious effort to limit the amount of human-contributed greenhouse gas emissions we let into our atmosphere. 

The international community has time and time again recognized the need to keep the warming of the Earth below two °C to mitigate the effects of the warming.

I like to think about my life as a link to everyone else in the world and a link to nature and the environment. 

I know whatever I do will affect, whether good or bad, others and the environment. 

This goes to say the more effort I put in to lessen the usage of fossil fuels in my life and other practices that emit greenhouse gases, the more I bring equilibrium to the environment and its people.  

We should all strive to bring back the equilibrium Earth naturally flowed with before humans adversely affected it with the overuse of fossil fuels.

Is climate change a natural phenomenon?

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