What Are the Greenhouse Gases?

Greenhouses get so much flack for causing the ruin of our atmosphere, but are they really at fault?  Maybe we should take a closer B2lab.ca look at what these presumably devious substances are and why they might be so dangerous.


Carbon dioxide is the result of burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, etc) as well as organic materials (solid waste, trees, etc) and some chemical reactions (manufacturing and industrial processes).  Carbon dioxide accounts for roughly 84 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted by the United States.


Methane emission occurs as a result of industrial processing and the transport of coal, oil, and natural gas.  It is also, of course, a natural emission of livestock and various other agricultural practices. Finally, methane can also result from the decay of organic waste within municipal solid waste landfills. Methane accounts for roughly 10 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted by the United States.


Nitrous oxide is another emission from agricultural and industrial activities.  It can also result from fossil fuel combustion and as part of the solid waste decay process. Nitrous oxide accounts for roughly 5 percent of all greenhouses gases emitted by the United States.


Fluorinated gases—hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, nitrogen trifluoride, and sulfur hexafluoride—are powerful, synthetic greenhouse gases that are emitted from several industrial processes.  While they are typically emitted in smaller quantities, their potency still greatly contributes to the Greenhouse Effect. It is important to note, however, that these are the only gases which contribute to the Greenhouse Effect that have no natural source.  

Yes, that means all fluorinated gases in the atmosphere today were made by man (or were the result of a manmade process).


Now, water vapor is actually the most abundant of all the greenhouse gases but most scientists believe that the water vapor produced out of human activity actually contributes very little to the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.  As such, the United State Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not actually estimate water vapor emission (when considering greenhouse gases).  


Technically, ozone (O3) is also a greenhouse gas because it does effect global temperature.  It occurs naturally at higher elevations, where it blocks ultraviolet rays from reaching the surface.  The concern over ozone is not that there is more of it, but that some industrial gases are destroying atmospheric ozone, which contributes to the damage created by the increase of other greenhouse gases.

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