Types of greenhouse gases- Our consumptions are off-limits

Sunlight naturally bombards the earth with a significant amount of radiation. This radiation is available in various forms: visible light, Infrared (IR), ultraviolet (UV), etc. When sunlight strikes the earth’s surface, there is a portion of the sun’s radiation gets absorption through the earth’s crust while others are reflected. Here’s where greenhouse gases enter the picture.

Types of greenhouse gases
A chellange for the future of our earth.

Greenhouse gas is a substance that causes the greenhouse effect by emitting radiant energy within the thermal infrared region. 

The term “greenhouse gases” is derived from the greenhouses that are that is used to cultivate plants. The house can maintain temperature due to the transparent glass that receives the sun’s rays. This light heats the air inside the system and allows hot air to go out.

Without the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect, the earth’s surface temperatures would fluctuate from the surface to the sky, and the earth would experience average temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius.

The impact that each type of greenhouse gas has on earth’s climate is determined by the chemical composition of the gas and its location within the atmosphere.

What are the various types of greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases get into the air due to natural processes (such as the breakdown of organic matter) and human activity (such as burning fossil fuels and farming).

These gases play an essential part in warming the atmosphere by absorbing the infrared light rays produced by the sun and releasing the excess energy they absorb into the atmosphere’s gases.

Types of greenhouse gases
Main greenhouse gases

Human and natural activities produce greenhouse gases.

  • Carbon dioxide (CO₂)
  • Methane (CH₄)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N₂O)
  • Ozone (O₃)
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)
  • Water vapor (H₂O)

1. Carbon dioxide (CO₂)

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is the most significant gas because it is among the gases found in the atmosphere, which warms the planet through a process known as the greenhouse effect.

Since the dawn of industrialization (in the 1800s), the concentration of carbon dioxide has risen to 50 percent in the atmosphere by human activity, meaning that CO₂ is now 150% of the amount in 1750.

Types of greenhouse gases
U.S. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2020

The natural carbon dioxide sources in the atmosphere are the combustion of volcanic gases, organic matter decomposition, and the respiration process by oxygen-using (oxygen-using) species.

Important natural plants are those that grow underground and absorb CO₂ through photosynthesis.

2016 was the first time CO₂ was responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The levels of CO₂ in the atmosphere are also increasing, and in 2018 they reached 410 parts per million. In 2021, the CO₂ emissions of Pakistan reached 219.8 million tonnes.

What is the mechanism by which carbon dioxide traps heat?

Carbon dioxide molecules in our atmosphere can absorb infrared radiation from the earth between 15,000 and 2000 nanometers (heat). Then it vibrates, emitting infrared light back to earth in every direction. It contributes to the ‘greenhouse.’ influence.’

The CO₂ levels at present are more significant than they were in more than 3 million years.

Although they comprise 0.04 percent of our universe, it still amounts to billions upon billions of tons of greenhouse gases. In 2019 the human race released 36.44 million tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, which will remain for hundreds of decades. Thus, there are enough CO₂ molecules to produce waste that absorbs heat throughout the climate.

Health-related problems

Exposure to CO₂ can trigger numerous health problems. It could include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, breathlessness or burning sensation, breathing difficulties sweating, fatigue, high blood pressure, palpitations, asphyxia, coma, and seizures.

2. Methane (CH₄)

After carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane is the second most prolific anthropogenic greenhouse gas. Methane is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide when preventing global warming. In the last 200 years, the quantity of methane in the atmosphere has increased by two-fold because of human activities.

Methane is also a volatile gas. Within 20 years, it will be 80 times more powerful when it comes to warming than carbon dioxide.

Methane is responsible for 30 percent of preindustrial warming and has been releasing more than ever since records started around 1980.

Types of greenhouse gases
Estimated global anthropogenic methane emissions, 2020

In 2020, methane (CH₄) was believed to have contributed around 11% of the total US greenhouse gases emitted from human activities. Human activities that release methane are mainly from emissions from the natural gas system and animal farming.

The petrochemical and energy industries are the two significant sources of methane emissions. Removing fossil fuels is essential to reducing the global effects of methane, a greenhouse gas.

How does methane trap heat?

Methane gas absorbs specific frequencies of infrared radiation emitted from the earth’s surface. It keeps heat trapped in the atmosphere, which would otherwise escape into space.

The ability of methane to hold heat is one of its drawbacks. It can also react with other compounds in the air to create ozone, a key component of smog, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane concentrations that are high across the globe could cause substantial increases in the amount of ground-level ozone, even in areas that are not close to natural gas drilling locations.

Methane is present in the environment for a shorter time than carbon dioxide (an estimated 12 years ) than carbon’s long, centuries-long life. Methane is far more effective in capturing heat, which means it has a potential for global warming, which is more than 80 times larger than CO₂ in 20 seasons.

Health-related problems

High methane levels could reduce the amount of oxygen emitted from the air. It could cause mood swings, mumble speech, memory problems, vision issues, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. In more severe instances, changes in breathing and heartbeat-, as well as balance issues or numbness, as well as unconsciousness, could be experienced.

3. Nitrous Oxide (N₂O)

Nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide aren’t greenhouse gases but are essential for creating ozone gas.

Nitrous oxide, also called “laughing gas,” is the third most important greenhouse gas, following carbon dioxide and methane, and poses the biggest threat to the oxygen layer.

Nitrous oxide aids in enhancing the greenhouse effect posed by carbon dioxide by trapping infrared radiation on the earth’s surface and ultimately heating the atmosphere.

The nitrogen oxide molecules remain in the air for about 114 years on average before being eliminated from the atmosphere by sinks or destroyed by chemical reactions. The impact of 1 Kg of N₂O on warming the atmosphere is 300 times greater than that of one Kg of carbon dioxide.

Around the world, 40 percent of all N₂O emissions originate directly from humans. In 2020 nitrous oxide (N₂O) will comprise around 7% of the total US carbon dioxide emissions due to human activities.

4. Ozone (O₃)

Technically, ozone can be described as a gas, but it is either beneficial or harmful based on its location in the earth’s atmosphere.

The Ozone hole doesn’t result in global warming. Ozone is a natural component of an atmosphere layer known as the stratosphere. The Ozone hole is a part of the stratosphere that lies over Antarctica. Ozone levels have decreased since the middle of the 20th century due to chemical reactions between ozone and human products, like aerosol cans or refrigerators. Ozone is an atmospheric greenhouse gas; therefore, its presence causes an effect of warming, and the depletion of ozone in the latter part of the 20th century caused cooling in the stratosphere above Antarctica but not warming.

How does ozone cause warming?

The upper layer of the atmosphere is home to two significant impacts on the earth’s temperature. It absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun that is harmful to animals, humans, and plants and warms the stratosphere. Also, it absorbs the infrared light released by the earth’s surface, trapping heat in the troposphere.

CFCs and Halons trigger chemical reactions that destroy ozone molecules, decreasing the capacity of ozone to absorb UV radiation. Ozone depletion results from chlorine fluorocarbons (CFCs), halons gasses previously present in refrigerants, and aerosols being released into the air.

Types of greenhouse gases
Ozone layer depletion

The primary source of O₃ on the surface O₃ comes from eliminating stratospheric O₃ from the atmosphere. However, the human O₃ source for O₃ on the surface O₃ is photochemical processes that involve carbon monoxide in the atmosphere (CO) contamination.

The most accurate estimate of naturally occurring O₃ amount is about 10 parts per billion. The net force emitted by oxygen supply O₃ is around 0.35 Watts per square meter. Ozone concentrations can increase to unhealthy levels (i.e., the conditions in which concentrations are greater than 70 ppb 8 for more than eight hours) in cities with photochemical pollution.

A high level of GHG emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other human-made items can contribute to warming, increasing the Ozone layer. Exposure to this pollution could worsen asthma, cause cardiac attacks and lead to other heart and respiratory problems.

Around 40% of all N₂O emissions worldwide come through human activity. In 2020, nitrous oxide (N₂O) will comprise 77% of US greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities.

5. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Halocarbons (chlorofluorocarbons and chemical substitutes: hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons) also contribute to greenhouse gases. The accumulation of such gases in the atmosphere is anticipated to accelerate global warming due to anticipated rises in CO₂ CH₄, N₂O, ozone, and H₂O vapors. In the following few decades, CFCs’ production of CFCs is expected to be reduced, and emissions from their alternatives are predicted to rise.

CFCs originate from industries and have only been used for 60 years. Chlorofluorocarbons are potent greenhouse gases that can be responsible for the destruction of stratospheric ozone.

Chlorofluorocarbons are more scarce on the planet than carbon dioxide, yet they are 10 times more potent than greenhouse gases and remain in the air for up to 100 years. CFCs make up 13% of greenhouse gases.

Chlorine gasses found in lower stratosphere levels are in contact with tiny clouds that form at freezing temperatures, ranging from 80 degrees Celsius. As greenhouse gases store heat at lower altitudes and heat their surroundings, they cool the stratosphere.

In the Southern Line, this stratosphere is cooling, causing an increase in stratospheric clouds, causing an increase in releases of chlorine into a reaction that could rapidly degrade ozone.

CFCs caused hot winters because of the following: CFCs destroyed ozone in the upper troposphere and stratosphere, causing these regions to cool down by 1.37 degrees Celcius between 1966 and 1998.

Concerning their health impacts, CFCs can cause asphyxiation within the heart, and emotions are high; however, their ability to exert everyday influence is not as high.

6. Water vapor (H₂O)

Water vapor, in both volume and weight, is the planet’s most prolific greenhouse gas found in our atmosphere. It’s responsible for approximately 50% of the greenhouse effect, which occurs when gases in the earth’s atmosphere absorb the sun’s heat. Greenhouse gases put our planet in a state of habitability.

Water vapor is in the air for a very brief period. The water vapor is usually in the air for a few days (before it starts to rain).

Types of greenhouse gases
How water vapors regulate global warming

Many people mistakenly believe they are the leading cause of the earth’s current temperature rise. The fact is that the increase in water vapor doesn’t result in global warming. It is instead the consequence of it. The rise in water vapor in the atmosphere results from the temperature caused by other greenhouse gases.

How can water vapor store heat?

It is also the main greenhouse gas that is found in the atmosphere. The heat released by the environment is absorbed in water molecules within soft layers in the air. Water vapor molecules emit heat throughout the entire atmosphere. A portion of the heat is returned to the earth. It makes water vapor the second-hottest (next after sunlight) on the earth’s surface.

Research has shown that feedback from water vapors nearly doubles CO₂ warming. Therefore, if there is a change in temperature of 1 degree Celsius due to CO₂, water vapor is likely to increase the temperature by 1 degree Celsius. If other feedback loops are considered, the total warming due to the possibility of a change of 1 degree Celsius caused due to CO₂ is about 3 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, the growth in atmospheric water vapor also increases the global water cycle—water vapors aid in drying problematic areas. The more water vapor the air can hold, the more energy it can hold. This energy causes extreme storms, particularly inland. It is the result of numerous factors.

A humidity at or above 60% within the home can encourage mildew, mold, and mites and may be detrimental to your health.

Concluding words:

As the world gets more industrialized, we are more exposed to the devastating effects of greenhouse gases. All other types of greenhouse gases be a source of indirect global warming. We only have a short time to wait until nature patiently absorbs the flood of CO₂. We can reduce the damage and suffering caused by decarbonizing our energy source, removing CO₂ from the atmosphere, and implementing sustainable ways to expand our business.

Author: Mahvish ShamimHi, I am Mahvish Shamim. A chemist, and content writer. I love working with WordPress and doing it the right way. Also passionate about spreading awareness about the environmental crisis. Through my skills, I will deliver high-quality work.

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