Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are damaging because they remain in the Earth’s atmosphere and trap heat. This contributes to global warming, which is believed to be connected to climate change. Climate change is responsible for a whole host of problems, from desertification and drought through to extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes and tsunamis. It is also responsible for the melting polar ice-caps and unforeseen damage to the delicate eco-system.
Different Types Of Greenhouse Gas
The main types of greenhouse gas are carbon dioxide or C02, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases which are released during industrial processes.
Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are burned, as well as bio-fuels and organic materials such as wood, trees and solid waste. It can also be released by processes such as cement manufacture. C02 can be re-absorbed by plants and prevented from causing damage to the atmosphere. However, it requires large swathes of greenery to remain across the world such as the rainforests which are being destroyed by logging and farming.
Methane is released during the transport and production of oil, coal and natural gas and it is a by-product of dairy farming and other farming practices, including solid waste incineration.
Nitrous oxide is released during industrial and farming activities as well as from burning solid waste and fossil fuels.
The Effects Of These Gases
Each greenhouse gas can stay in the atmosphere for a varying amount of time which ranges from several years to many thousands of years. Each of the main gas types will stay in the atmosphere for a sufficient period to combine and to spread across the world, regardless of where the source is concentrated. This means that local activities will affect the globe as a whole and policies to combat climate change must be signed up to by all nations rather than just a select few.
As the gases trap heat and warm the planet, the Earth’s natural balance is thrown out of kilter and this leads to extreme weather, desertification and failing crops. Natural eco-systems are changed and sometimes destroyed. The increase in the amount of greenhouse gases is almost entirely due to human activity over the past 150 years. The USA is the biggest source of the emissions to date but other developing nations are catching up.
Primary generation sources include electricity production, industry, transport, commercial, agriculture and residential. From 1990, the emissions levels in the USA were growing by 5pc annually. However, this reversed in 2012 as the impact of renewable energy investments began to be felt and it is hoped that this downward trend will continue as the adoption of new renewable energies, including biofuels for transport, increases and becomes more widespread.
Efforts To Combat Climate Change
Global investment in renewable energy sources is diminishing the reliance on fossil fuels and helping to create clean and green energy, as well as a large green economy. Examples of these renewable energies include solar PV and solar thermal, onshore and offshore wind energy, biofuel, hydropower and combined heat and power. Recycling, waste management and better education about greenhouse gases and environmental protection are slowly helping to reverse the changes. However, further work is needed in government policy, as well as among individual communities and the action that they can take to preserve their children’s futures.