Although there are plenty of other contributing factors to global warming, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Water Vapour, and Ozone (O3) are the most popular.
The greenhouse effect of these gases has been a long-standing cause of global warming, with some countries taking action by placing a ban on certain products that are deemed harmful, such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons – used in the manufacturing of aerosol sprays). CFC’s are banned because of their effect on upper atmosphere Ozone which protects all life on Earth from the destructive effects of solar radiation by absorbing ultra violet light. The article below highlights carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide as these are the 3 most notable man-made contributors.
Greenhouse Gases List – The Big 3
Although CO2 is emitted by several natural resources, human activities such as fossil fuel burning, cement production, deforestation, agriculture, and development are the cause of the rapid increase of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. In 2017 it was reported that CO2 had 388,500 parts per billion in the atmosphere, and because it absorbs and emits infrared radiation, it is a significant contributor to global warming.
Ways to reduce carbon dioxide
- Energy efficiency: using more fuel-efficient vehicles, electrical appliances, and improving the insulation of buildings.
- Energy Conservation: turning off lights and electronics when not in use, and reducing distance travelled in vehicles will reduce fossil fuel consumption.
- Fuel Switching: utilising renewable sources for energy production, and using fuels with lower carbon contents like natural gas (methane).
Over 60% of total CH4 emissions stem from human activities including industry, agriculture, and waste management activities, and while carbon dioxide is the most well-known, methane’s capacity of trapping heat is 25 times that of carbon dioxide. While the earth has natural sinks that help absorb a lot of the natural methane that is emitted, the excessive human production of CH4 exceeds the earth’s natural absorption capabilities. Methane levels are reported to be 1,870 parts per billion, an increase of 1,170 parts per billion since the pre-industrial period.
Ways to reduce methane
- Industry: upgrading the equipment used to produce, store, and transport oil and gas can reduce many of the leaks that contribute to CH4
- Agriculture: Methane from manure management practices can be reduced and captured by altering manure management strategies. Additionally, modifications to animal feeding practices may reduce emissions from enteric fermentation.
- Waste from homes and business: emissions from landfill gas are a major source of CH4 emissions, therefore emission controls that capture landfill CH4 are an effective reduction strategy.
Nitrous oxide is a liquefied gas that has a lifetime, in the atmosphere, of 114 years, and has a weight (global warming potential) that is 298 times stronger than carbon dioxide which makes it a threat for the environment despite its low concentration. Globally, 40% of N2O emissions come from human activities such as agriculture, transportation, and industry activities. There are a number of uses for nitrous oxide, including as an aerosol spray propellant, an anaesthetic and pain reliever in medicine, and as a rocket motor oxidizer, and despite its danger to the environment it is (predicted) to be one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
Ways to reduce Nitrous Oxide
- Stop using natural gas as a fuel for heating, cooking and electric power generation.
- Agriculture: reducing nitrogen-based fertilizer applications and applying these fertilizers more efficiently.
- Fuel Combustion: Reducing fuel consumption in motor vehicles and secondary sources, and introducing pollution control technologies.
- Industry: reduce industry emissions by switching fuel and upgrades to technology.
A number of government bodies are working towards a better and more sustainable future for our environment, but their efforts will only be successful if there is a global understanding of the environmental issues playing their part in climate change.
Gas Sensors for the Greenhouse Gases List
Monitoring and accurately measuring gas concentrations is one way to play your part in combatting the effects of these greenhouse gases. Edinburgh Sensors provides a range of OEM gas sensors that are manufactured to the highest specification for integration into a wide range of systems where fast, accurate, and reliable measurements of CO, CO2, CH4, and many other gases are needed.