Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What are greenhouse gases?



By Jessica Armstrong 

            Whenever the topic of global climate change is present the topic of greenhouse gases follows. Conversations of glaciers melting and heat waves plaguing the world consumes the conversation but rarely is the term “greenhouse gases” explained. So what are “greenhouse gases” and how are these gases created.
            The Environmental Protection Agency defines green house gases as “anything that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere(2)”. Greenhouse gases include “carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride(2).” Another important term to understand in addition to “greenhouse gases” would be the term “greenhouse effect”. The greenhouse effect is very similar to what a greenhouse in a garden would do, the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere cause heat to become trapped in our atmosphere and in turn the earth’s surface begins to warm.
            There is no one primary source of greenhouses gases but some sources clearly produce more than others. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that electricity production accounts of the 34% of greenhouses gases, transportation 27%, industry 21%, and commercial and residential at 11%(1). Even though the causes of greenhouses gasses are placed in different categories here these categories all have influence on one another. Simply eliminating or decreasing one source of greenhouse gases would not be enough. As we see here electricity production is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, if we decreased our reliance on fossil fuel in transportation our reliance on electric cars would cause an increase in the need for electricity production. However, this does not mean that decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels is a waste, creating any sort of solution to climate change will take a multi dimensional approach.  
             
1. "Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions." United States Enviromental Protection Agency. N.p., 14 June 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html>.

2."Glossary of Climate Change Terms." United States Enviromental Protection Agency. N.p., 14 June 2012. Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/glossary.html#G>.

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