What Are Greenhouse Gases

You have probably heard a lot of talk recently about greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on the environment. You have also probably heard them associated with global warming. So what are greenhouse gasses? Well, first of all, green house gasses are natural, but they can also be created by industrial processes. Our planet does depend on greenhouse gasses to a certain extent. In fact, without them the Earth would not be able to maintain a livable temperature. The presence of greenhouse gasses prevents all of the Earth’s heat from escaping into outer space. However, an excess of greenhouse gasses has an opposite effect, and causes too much heat to be trapped on Earth.

Among the naturally occurring greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and nitrous oxide. While these gasses are in essence natural, their abundance has been inflated due to man-made innovations since the Industrial Revolution. In addition to the increased abundance of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses, man-made industry has contributed another kind of greenhouse gas, called CFC-12. CFC-12 , also known as Dichlorodifluoromethane or by the brand name Freon-12, was a popular agent used as a refrigerant as well as an aerosol spray propellant. Since 1994 it has been banned in the United States along with several other countries, due to its potential damage to the ozone layer.

Carbon Dioxide naturally occurs as a byproduct of the respiratory process of all animals, plants and even microorganisms on Earth. However, it is also released into the atmosphere due to the burning of solid wastes, wood products, and fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Methane gas is produced as organic waste is decomposing, such as in landfills. It is also emitted by various livestock as part of the digestive process. There is no shortage of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere. In 1998 it was measured at 1,745 parts per billion, an increase of around 1,000 parts per billion from roughly 250 years prior. Emissions of nitrous oxide occur during various agricultural and industrial processes, as well as during the burning of solid waste or fossil fuels.