We know today, thanks to scientific studies, we know exactly the greenhouse effect gases that as emitted by human activities and influence the climate. So, in addition to carbon dioxide (CO2), see which gases cause climate change, like methan and nitrous oxide.
According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), emissions come mainly from the production of energy and fuel for transport, and this is what causes global warming through the combustion of coal, oil and gas, which produces carbon dioxide. and nitrous oxide.
Second comes deforestation: when trees are cut down, they release the CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere by themselves and release it back into the atmosphere, aggravating the greenhouse effect.
In addition, an important carbon sink is lost, which, on a daily basis, could help to balance this balance.
Agriculture follows, as well as the rise of intensive livestock and sheep ranching, which produce significant amounts of methane in digestion digest food.
Finally, nitrogen-containing fertilizers logically produce nitrous oxide emissions.
Fluorinated gases have a powerful warming effect, which can be over 20,000 times greater than CO.
Fortunately, they are issued in much smaller quantities and European Union regulations are phasing them out on the continent, influencing the rest of the world to do the same.
Certain gases in Earth’s atmosphere act like the walls of a greenhouse, allowing solar energy to enter the atmosphere but also preventing it from escaping.
Many of these gases are naturally present in the atmosphere, but according to the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Chance) it is proven that human activity increases the concentrations of some of them in the atmosphere, such as:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2);
- Nitrous oxide (N2O);
- Methane (CH4);
- Fluorinated gases.
According to the UN, CO2 is responsible for 50% of global warming caused by man, it is the greenhouse gas most produced by human activities.
Its concentration in the atmosphere has increased by more than 40% since the beginning of industrialization.
Other greenhouse gases are emitted in minute amounts, but they retain heat much more strongly than CO2 and can be up to 1,000 times more potent.
Methane alone is responsible for 19% of human-caused global warming, while nitrous oxide is responsible for about 6% of global warming.
Therefore, it is possible to see which gases cause global warming more intensely.
The natural causes: the greenhouse effect gases
Natural causes of global warming are sometimes mentioned, such as natural greenhouse gases.
Although it is proven that certain natural phenomena can influence the greenhouse effect and contribute to global warming, it should be borne in mind that these phenomena are many times lower than human CO2 emissions.
Sometimes they are even the direct consequence of human CO2 emissions.
For example, melting permafrost in certain cold areas of the globe has the effect of releasing large amounts of methane that were previously stored in the ground into the atmosphere.
The emission of CO2 into the atmosphere increases the temperature, which melts the permafrost and further amplifies global warming.
This phenomenon may therefore seem “natural” at first glance, but it is actually caused by human CO2 emissions and the warming they imply.
Natural greenhouse effect gases
We can classify some gases that cause global warming and their respective forms of production.
1. Water vapor (H2O)
Most important greenhouse gas naturally present in the atmosphere, it is created by the evaporation of water present on the Earth’s surface.
2. Carbon dioxide (CO2)
It is created by the natural decomposition of animal or plant matter, but it is taken up by plants during the process of photosynthesis (transformation of CO2 and water into sugars under the effect of sunlight). It is the main one of the gases that cause global warming.
It is created in large quantities as a result of human activities, mainly:
production of energy by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas),
deforestation, especially in tropical regions, for the conversion of forests to agricultural land, industrial processes such as cement and lime production, certain activities in the petrochemical and steel industries.
3. Methane (CH4)
It is created by the decomposition of plant matter in humid environments. Just over half of total methane emissions are caused by human activities:
- agriculture (rice fields, fermentation in the intestines of livestock, use of manure and slurry)
- domestic waste treatment (dumping, composting),
- exploration, distribution and consumption of natural gas (leaks, insufficient or unburned gas).
The concentration of methane has increased by almost 150% since 1750, from 700 to 1774 ppb in 2005 (ppb = parts per billion — number of particles per billion); this gas is responsible for about 20% of the current greenhouse effect. Methane emissions have remained fairly stable over the past decade.
Methane has a “global warming potential” (GWP = Global Warming Potential) 25 times that of CO .
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, originating primarily from the decomposition of organic matter from agriculture and landfills, as well as from the extraction and distribution of natural gas.
4. Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” (N2O)
Emissions of this greenhouse gas resulting from human activities come from:
- Agriculture (use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers);
- Chemical industry (e.g. production of saltpeter acid);
- Burning fossil fuels for home heating and transportation;
- The current concentration is approximately 16% higher than in 1750, 319 instead of 270 ppb in 2005 (ppb = parts per billion — number of particles per billion);
- Laughing gas is responsible for about 6% of the current greenhouse effect;
- It has a “global warming power” 298 times that of CO2, even though it’s emissions are much smaller than the carbon ones.
5. Ozone (O)
Ozone is naturally present in the stratosphere (at an altitude of 10–15 km): it protects the planet against dangerous UV rays. The weakening of stratospheric ozone concentrations (the famous “hole in the ozone layer”) is caused by artificial substances that break down ozone at these altitudes, such as various fluorinated compounds (eg, propellants in aerosols).
But ozone is also created in the troposphere (man’s living environment) after a chemical reaction — under the effect of intense sunlight — between substances resulting from air pollution.
Ozone, a very reactive gas, is harmful to health, has a negative impact on crop yields, etc. At low altitudes, ozone also increases the greenhouse effect and is one of the gases that cause global warming.