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What is air pollution?

Air pollution (say: po-loo-shun) occurs when gases, dust particles, fumes (or
smoke) or odour are introduced into the atmosphere in a way that makes it
harmful to humans, animals and plant. This is because the air becomes dirty
(contaminated or unclean).

The Earth is surrounded by a blanket of air (made up of various gases) called the
atmosphere. The atmosphere helps protect the Earth and allow life to exist. Without it,
we would be burned by the intense heat of the sun during the day or frozen by the very
low temperatures at night.
Any additional gas, particles or odours that are introduced into the air (either by nature
or human activity) to distort this natural balance and cause harm to living things can be
called air pollution.



Things that pollute the air are called pollutants. Examples of pollutants include
nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, hydrocarbons, sulphur oxides (usually from
factories), sand or dust particles, and organic compounds that can evaporate and enter
the atmosphere.

There are two types of pollutants:
Primary pollutants are those gases or particles that are pumped into the air to make
it unclean. They include carbon monoxide from automobile (cars) exhausts and sulfur
dioxide from the combustion of coal.

Secondary pollutants: When pollutants in the air mix up in a chemical reaction, they
form an even more dangerous chemical. Photochemical smog is an example of this, and
is a secondary pollutant.


What are the common air pollutants around?



Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Fuel combustion from vehicles and engines.
Reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the bodys organs and tissues; aggravates
heart disease, resulting in chest pain and other symptoms.
Ground-level Ozone (O3)
Secondary pollutant formed by chemical reaction of volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) and NOx in the presence of sunlight.
Decreases lung function and causes respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and
shortness of breath, and also makes asthma and other lung diseases get worse. More
on Ground Level Ozone Here
Lead (Pb)
Smelters (metal refineries) and other metal industries; combustion of leaded
gasoline in piston engine aircraft; waste incinerators (waste burners), and battery
manufacturing.
Damages the developing nervous system, resulting in IQ loss and impacts on
learning, memory, and behavior in children. Cardiovascular and renal effects in adults
and early effects related to anaemia.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Fuel combustion (electric utilities, big industrial boilers, vehicles) and wood burning.
Worsens lung diseases leading to respiratory symptoms, increased susceptibility to
respiratory infection.
Particulate Matter (PM)
This is formed through chemical reactions, fuel combustion (e.g., burning coal, wood,
diesel), industrial processes, farming (plowing, field burning), and unpaved roads or
during road constructions.
Short-term exposures can worsen heart or lung diseases and cause respiratory
problems. Long-term exposures can cause heart or lung disease and sometimes
premature deaths.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
SO2 comes from fuel combustion (especially high-sulfur coal); electric utilities and
industrial processes as well as natural occurances like volcanoes.
Aggravates asthma and makes breathing difficult. It also contributes to particle
formation with associated health effects.
What causes air pollution?

Air pollution can result from both human and natural actions. Natural events that
pollute the air include forest fires, volcanic eruptions, wind erosion, pollen dispersal,
evaporation of organic compounds and natural radioactivity. Pollution from natural
occurrences are not very often.

Human activities that result in air pollution include:

1. Emissions from industries and manufacturing activities



Have you seen a manufacturing company before? You will notice that there are long
tubes (called chimneys) erected high into the air, with lots of smoke and fumes coming
out of it. Waste incinerators, manufacturing industries and power plants emit high
levels of carbon monoxide, organic compounds, and chemicals into the air. This
happens almost everywhere that people live. Petroleum refineries also release lots of
hydrocarbons into the air.
2. Burning Fossil Fuels
After the industrial age, transportation has become a key part of our lives. Cars and
heavy duty trucks, trains, shipping vessels and airplanes all burn lots of fossil fuels to
work. Emissions from automobile engines contain both primary and secondary
pollutants. This is a major cause of pollution, and one that is very difficult to manage.
This is because humans rely heavily on vehicles and engines for transporting people,
good and services.

Fumes from car exhauts contain dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, oxides of
nitrogen, hydrocarbons and particulates. On their own, they cause great harm to people
who breath them. Additionally, they react with environmental gases to create further
toxic gases. Click here to see the effects



3. Household and Farming Chemicals
Crop dusting, fumigating homes, household cleaning products or painting supplies, over
the counter insect/pest killers, fertilizer dust emit harmful chemicals into the air and
cause pollution. In many case, when we use these chemicals at home or offices with no
or little ventilation, we may fall ill if we breathe them.
What are the effects of air pollution?

Acidification:
Chemical reactions involving air pollutants can create acidic compounds which can
cause harm to vegetation and buildings. Sometimes, when an air pollutant, such as
sulfuric acid combines with the water droplets that make up clouds, the water droplets
become acidic, forming acid rain. When acid rain falls over an area, it can kill trees and
harm animals, fish, and other wildlife.


Acid rain destroys the leaves of plants.
When acid rain infiltrates into soils, it changes the chemistry of the soil making it unfit
for many living things that rely on soil as a habitat or for nutrition. Acid rain also
changes the chemistry of the lakes and streams that the rainwater flows into, harming
fish and other aquatic life.
Eutrophication:
Rain can carry and deposit the Nitrogen in some pollutants on rivers and soils. This will
adversely affect the nutrients in the soil and water bodies. This can result in algae
growth in lakes and water bodies, and make conditions for other living organism
harmful.
Ground-level ozone:
Chemical reactions involving air pollutants create a poisonous gas ozone (O3). Gas
Ozone can affect peoples health and can damage vegetation types and some animal
life too.
Particulate matter:
Air pollutants can be in the form of particulate matter which can be very harmful to our
health. The level of effect usually depends on the length of time of exposure, as well
the kind and concentration of chemicals and particles exposed to. Short-term
effects include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and upper respiratory infections
such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Others include headaches, nausea, and allergic
reactions. Short-term air pollution can aggravate the medical conditions of individuals
with asthma and emphysema. Long-term health effects can include chronic
respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves,
liver, or kidneys. Continual exposure to air pollution affects the lungs of growing
children and may aggravate or complicate medical conditions in the elderly.
Air pollution prevention, monitoring and solution.

Solution efforts on pollution is always a big problem. This is why prevention
interventions are always a better way of controlling air pollution. These prevention
methods can either come from government (laws) or by individual actions. In many big
cities, monitoring equipment have been installed at many points in the city. Authorities
read them regularly to check the quality of air. Let's see more below:
Government (or community) level prevention
Governments throughout the world have already taken action against air pollution
by introducing green energy. Some governments are investing in wind energy and solar
energy, as well as other renewable energy, to minimize burning of fossil fuels, which
cause heavy air pollution.

Governments are also forcing companies to be more responsible with their
manufacturing activities, so that even though they still cause pollution, they are a lot
controlled.

Companies are also building more energy efficient cars, which pollute less than
before.
Individual Level Prevention
Encourage your family to use the bus, train or bike when commuting. If we all do
this, there will be less cars on road and less fumes.


Use energy (light, water, boiler, kettle and fire woods) wisely. This is because lots of
fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity, and so if we can cut down the use, we will
also cut down the amount of pollution we create.

Recycle and re-use things. This will minimize the dependence of producing new
things. Remember manufacturing industries create a lot of pollution, so if we can re-use
things like shopping plastic bags, clothing, paper and bottles, it can help.

Human activities causes air pollution and raising the following problems:
(a) Acid rain
(b) Greenhouse effect
(c) Depletion of ozone layer











What Causes Acid Rains?
Acid rain is caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds like sulfur
dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air. These substances can rise
very high into the atmosphere, where they mix and react with water, oxygen, and
other chemicals to form more acidic pollutants, known as acid rain. Sulfur dioxide
and nitrogen oxides dissolve very easily in water and can be carried very far by the
wind. As a result, the two compounds can travel long distances where they become
part of the rain, sleet, snow, and fog that we experience on certain days.
Human activities are the main cause of acid rain. Over the past few decades,
humans have released so many different chemicals into the air that they have
changed the mix of gases in the atmosphere. Power plants release the majority of
sulfur dioxide and much of the nitrogen oxides when they burn fossil fuels, such as
coal, to produce electricity. In addition, the exhaust from cars, trucks, and buses
releases nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide into the air. These pollutants cause
acid rain.
Nature depends on balance, and although some rain is naturally acidic, with
a pH level of around 5.0, human activities have made it worse. Normal
precipitationsuch as rain, sleet, or snowreacts with alkaline chemicals, or non-
acidic materials, that can be found in air, soils, bedrock, lakes, and streams. These
reactions usually neutralize natural acids. However, if precipitation becomes too
acidic, these materials may not be able to neutralize all of the acids. Over time,
these neutralizing materials can be washed away by acid rain. Damage to crops,
trees, lakes, rivers, and animals can result.






Effect to living thing and environment
(i) Acid Rain Can Cause Health Problems in People
Air pollution like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can cause respiratory
diseases, or can make these diseases worse. Respiratory diseases
like asthma or chronic bronchitis make it hard for people to breathe. The
pollution that causes acid rain can also create tiny particles. When these
particles get into peoples lungs, they can cause health problems, or can make
existing health problems worse. Also, nitrogen oxides cause ground-
level ozone. This ground-level ozone causes respiratory problems,
like pneumonia and bronchitis, and can even cause permanent lung damage.
The health effects that people have to worry about are not caused by the
acid rain, but are caused when people breathe in these tiny particles or
ozone. Swimming in an acidic lake or walking in an acidic puddle is no more
harmful to people than swimming or walking in clean water.

(ii) Acid Rain Harms Forests
Acid rain can be extremely harmful to forests. Acid rain that seeps into the
ground can dissolve nutrients, such as magnesium and calcium,hat trees need
to be healthy. Acid rain also causes aluminum to be released into the soil,
which makes it difficult for trees to take up water. Trees that are located
in mountainous regions at higher elevations, such as spruce or fir trees, are
at greater risk because they are exposed to acidic clouds and fog, which
contain greater amounts of acid than rain or snow. The acidic clouds and fog
strip important nutrients from their leaves and needles. This loss of
nutrients makes it easier for infections, insects, and cold weather to damage
trees and forests.

(iii) Acid Rain Damages Lakes and Streams
Without pollution or acid rain, most lakes and streams would have a pH level
near 6.5. Acid rain, however, has caused many lakes and streams in the
northeast United States and certain other places to have much lower pH
levels. In addition, aluminum that is released into the soil eventually ends up
in lakes and streams. Unfortunately, this increase in acidity and aluminum
levels can be deadly to aquatic wildlife, including phytoplankton, mayflies,
rainbow trout, small mouth bass, frogs, spotted salamanders, crayfish, and
other creatures that are part of the food web. This problem can become
much worse during heavy downpours of rain or when the snow begins to melt
in the spring. These types of events are known as episodic acidification.



(iv) Acid Rain Affects a Food Web
A food web is a diagram that explains the feeding relationships between
different plants and animals in an ecosystem. An animal that is at the top of
a food web eats the various plants and animals that are listed below it.
Therefore, the animals at the top are predators, and the animals and plants
listed below them are prey. Some animals have many different sources of
food, while others are more limited in what they eat.
Acid rain can cause serious problems for many different animals and plants.
As a result, the entire food web is affected. For example, acid rain can
cause phytoplankton in lakes to die. Insects, which rely on phytoplankton for
food, now have less food to eat, and they begin to die as a result. These
insects are a source of food for many other animals, such as fish, birds,
frogs, and salamanders. As the insects die, there is now less food for these
animals. This process continues up the entire food web. So, although acid
rain may not directly affect a certain species of plant or animal, it can
affect the entire food web by limiting the amount of food available.

(v) Acid Rain Damages Buildings and Objects
Acid rain can also have a damaging effect on many objects, including
buildings, statues, monuments, and cars. The chemicals found in acid rain can
cause paint to peel and stone statues to begin to appear old and worn down,
which reduces their value and beauty.

Ways to overcome
What Is Being Done?
Now that you know why acid rain is a problem, you might be wondering whats being
done to control it. Regulations and new technologies are helping reduce acid rain.
(i) EPAs Acid Rain Program
Power plants generate the electricity we use every day. Unfortunately,
power plants also produce large amounts of nitrogen oxides and sulfur
dioxidethe pollutants that cause acid rainwhen they burn fossil fuels,
especially coal, to produce energy. Congress passed a law called the Clean
Air Act Amendments of 1990, and this law said that EPA should start
the Acid Rain Program. The program limits, or puts a cap on, the amount
of sulfur dioxide that power plants can release into the air and
issues allowances to the power plants to cover their sulfur dioxide
emissions. It also reduces the amount of nitrogen oxides that power
plants can release.
(ii) Reducing Pollution
Scientists have found different ways to reduce the amount of sulfur
dioxide released from coal-burning power plants. One option is to use coal
that contains less sulfur. Another option is to wash the coal to remove
some of the sulfur. The power plant can also install equipment called
scrubbers, which remove the sulfur dioxide from gases leaving the
smokestack. Because nitrogen oxides are created in the process of
burning coal and other fossil fuels, some power plants are changing the
way they burn coal.
(iii) Other Sources of Energy
A great way to reduce acid rain is to produce energy without using fossil
fuels. Instead, people can use renewable energy sources, such as solar
and wind power. Renewable energy sources help reduce acid rain because
they produce much less pollution. These energy sources can be used to
power machinery and produce electricity.
(iv) Cleaner Cars
Cars and trucks are major sources of the pollutants that cause acid rain.
While one car alone does not produce much pollution, all the cars on the
road added together create lots of pollution. Therefore, car
manufacturers are required to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides and
other pollutants released by new cars. One type of technology used in
cars is called a catalytic converter. This piece of equipment has been
used for over 20 years to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides released
by cars. Some new cars can also use cleaner fuels, such as natural gas.
Cars that produce less pollution and are better for the environment are
often labeled as low emissions vehicles. You can find out which vehicles
are low emissions vehicles by looking at EPAs Green Vehicle Guide.


What Can You Do ?

Government agencies and scientists are not the only ones that can take
action to stop acid rain. You can become part of the solution, too!
(i) Understand the Problem
The first step you can take to help control acid rain is to understand the
problem and its solutions. Now that you have learned about this
environmental issue, you can tell others about it. By telling your
classmates, parents, and teachers about what you learned on this site,
you can help educate them about the problem of acid rain. You CAN make
a difference!
(ii) Conserve Energy
Since energy production creates large amounts of the pollutants that
cause acid rain, one important step you can take is to conserve energy.
You can do this in a number of ways:
Turn off lights, computers, televisions, video games, and other electrical
equipment when you're not using them.
Encourage your parents to buy equipment that uses less electricity, including
lights, air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines. Such
equipment might have the Energy Star label.
Try to limit the use of air conditioning.
Ask your parents to adjust the thermostat (the device used to control the
temperature in your home) when you go on vacation.
(iii) Minimize the Miles
Driving cars and trucks also produces large amounts of nitrogen oxides,
which cause acid rain. To help cut down on air pollution from cars, you can
carpool or take public transportation, such as buses and trains. Also, ask
your parents to walk or bike with you to a
nearby store or friends house instead of
driving.






Rain is very important for life. All living things need water to live,
even people.
Rain brings us the water we need. But in many places in the world
even where you live, rain has become a menace.
Because of pollution in the air, acid gases from factories, cars and
homes, the rain is becoming dangerous for the life of every living
creature.
This rain is known as 'acid rain'.









WHAT IS ACID RAIN?
Acid gases are produced when fossil fuels like coal and oil are
burned in power stations, factories and in our own homes.
Most of these acid gases are blown into the sky, and when
they mix with the clouds it can cause rain - or snow, sleet,
fog, mist or hail - to become more acidic.
The opposites of acid are alkalis; for example, toothpaste and
baking powder are both alkalis. Strong alkalis can also be dangerous, such as ammonia
and bleach.
Lemon juice, vinegar and cola are all acidic. Rain is naturally
acidic, but acid gases make it even more acidic, sometimes as
acid as lemon!
Nature can also produce acid gases,
such as volcanoes. When they erupt,
the smoke that comes out of the
crater is also full of acid gases.








HOW DO WE MEASURE ACIDITY?
There is a special scale called the pH scale that
measures the strength of acids and alkalis. A low pH
number means something is acid. A high number means
something is alkali. And something in the middle is
called neutral.
Acidity can be tested using litmus paper.
Usually rain is a little acidic, and has pH of about 5.5, if
the pH of rainfall is less than 5.5, then the rain is probably polluted by
acid gases.
Acids turn litmus paper red, and alkalis turn it blue. With a special paper
called universal indicator, you can test levels of acidity.


WHAT ARE THE MAIN GASES THAT CAUSE ACID RAIN?
When we burn fuels, chemicals called 'sulphur' and 'nitrogen'
are released into the air. Once in the air, they mix with water
in the air - rain, snow, etc - and are transformed into different
chemicals called 'sulphur dioxide' and 'nitrogen oxides', which
can be very dangerous for plants, animals and people. Most of
the 'sulphur' comes from power stations, which make
electricity, and also from volcanoes. Most of the 'nitrogen
oxides' come from car and truck exhausts.
We call 'air pollution' the bad gases that we produce and release in the air.
'Sulphur dioxide' and 'nitrogen oxides' are the most important causes of acid
rain.
A PROBLEM ALL OVER THE WORLD
Air pollution can be carried over long distances. When acid
gases are released, they go high up in the sky, and then
they are pushed by strong winds
towards other countries.
The acid rain in Sweden is caused by air pollution in Britain
and other countries of Europe. The pollution produced in
Britain ends up mostly in Scandinavia - countries in northern
Europe including Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

In the USA, the winds blow the air pollution to certain areas in Canada.

HOW BAD IS ACID RAIN?
When rain is acidic, it affects what it falls on: trees, lakes,
buildings and farmland. Sometimes rain is not very acidic and
does not cause a lot of problems, but when it is acidic, it can
be very harmful to the environment.
TREES AND PLANTS
Acid rain can have terrible effects on a forest. The acid takes
away important minerals from the leaves and the soil.
Minerals are like vitamins for trees and plants. Without them,
trees and plants cannot grow properly. They lose their leaves and
become very weak. They are no longer strong enough to fight
against illnesses and frost. They become very ill and can even die.
Some soils are alkaline, when acid rain falls on them the acid becomes neutral. Plants
and trees living on these soils are not in any big danger..
LAKES AND WATER LIFE
Acid rain has a terrible effect on water life. Even if the acid
rain does not fall straight into the lake, for example, it may
enter from rivers and streams. Some of the life in the lake
such as fish and plants may end up dying, because they
cannot survive in acidic lakes.
Thousands of lakes in Scandinavia have no more life in them.
They have received so much acid rain for so many years, because of the winds pushing
the acid gases, that nothing can survive.
You can recognise a lake dead from acid rain by its clean and crystal clear water. But
they look clean because there is very little living in them anymore. Tiny plants and
animals are mostly unable to survive..






OUR HEALTH
Particulates - very small particles of debris found in some of the air pollution - are
one of the main causes of health problems. In towns and cities,
these are released mainly by diesel engines from cars and trucks.
When we breathe in air pollution, these very fine particulates can
easily enter our body, where they can cause breathing problems,
and over time even cause cancer.
Water we drink from taps can be contaminated by acid rain, which
can damage the brain..
BUILDINGS
Acid rain can also ruin buildings because the acid eats into metal
and stone. It also damages stained glass and plastics. Some
types of building materials are softer than others, and it is the
softer ones which are most affected by acid rain. Sandstone
and limestone are examples of stone which are fairly soft and
are damaged easily. Granite is an example of a harder stone
that can resist the effects of acid rain.
In many places in the world, ancient and famous buildings and monuments
are affected by acid rain. For example, the Statue of Liberty in New
York, USA, has had to be restored because of acid rain damage.
Buildings are naturally eroded by rain, wind, frost and the sun, but when
acidic gases are present, it speeds up the erosion.






What Causes Greenhouse Effect?
Heat energy comes to the Earth as sunlight and leaves in the form of infrared
radiation, but greenhouses gases trap some of the radiation before it can
escape the atmosphere again, leading to the "greenhouse effect." This gives
the atmosphere a great deal of its ambient warmth. However, as greenhouse gases
have increased their presence in the environment, the temperature of the Earth
has risen as a result.
The term "greenhouse effect" comes from the idea that the Earth's atmosphere
works in much the same way as a man-made greenhouse. This structure is made
primarily of glass, permitting sunlight to come in but trapping the resulting heat
inside the structure. The "greenhouses gases" come from a number of sources but,
in general, they consist of nitrous oxide, methane, carbon dioxide and the gases
that go into aerosols.
Since industrialization began around 1850, levels of greenhouse gases in the
environment have gone up approximately 25 percent. The arrival of fossil fuels and
the need for electricity meant that the consumption of energy would lead to
greater greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge for government planners is to find
a happy medium between development and environmental protection.

Before we dig deep into the causes of greenhouse effect, it is important for us to
know what is greenhouse effect. You must have heard of greenhouse effect during
any debate on global warming. The light that we get from the sun helps to keep this
atmosphere warm. Of the 100% light that sun sends to earth, almost 70% sunlight
is reflected back into the sky. Only 30% of that sunlight is absorbed by us. The
sunlight absorbed is used for different purposes. It can be used to produce
solar energy, drying clothes, by plants in the process of photosynthesis and to
make this planet warm and comfortable for living.

The 70% of the light that is reflected back into the space, also known as infrared
radiations, are absorbed by greenhouse gases before they are lost to space. The
absorption of these lights by greenhouse gases make it possible to keep this planet
warm for living beings as these gases acts like a mirror and reflect some of the
heat back to earth. Without Greenhouse effect, the temperature of this planet
would be lesser by 30 degree celsius and this would be too cold for us to survive.
The major greenhouse gases solely responsible for greenhouse effect are: carbon
dioxide, ozone, methane and water vapors. Although these gases comprise 1% of
our atmosphere, they act like a thick warm blanket outside that surrounds this
planet and regulate climate control. Greenhouse effect is not bad, in fact it is
needed to for all of us to survive on earth. In short, the greenhouse effect is
nothing but a naturally occurring process designed by nature that aids in heating
earths surface and helps to maintain ecological balance.
Now some of that heat dissipates into space, some of it burns along the
atmosphere, and some of it penetrates the atmosphere and finds its way into the
lower atmosphere and the planet surface. This in turn raises the average
temperature of the Earth. This increases the greenhouse effect and is a partial
contributor to global warming
1. Burning of Fossil Fuels : Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas have become
an integral part of our life. They are used on large basis to produce electricity and
for transportation. Pollution which gets emit from vehicles contains carbon dioixde,
which is one the main gas responsible for increase in greenhouse effect. Apart,
from that, the production of electricity consume too much of coal which releases
large amount of these gases into the atmosphere.
2. Deforestation : Forests holds a major green area on this earth. Plants and trees
intake carbon dioxide and release oxygen, through the process of photosynthesis,
for the survival of human beings. Large scale development have forced people to
look for alternate places for living which has resulted in cutting down of trees. The
wood that is produced, when burnt releases more carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere.
3. Increase in Population : Over the last few decades, there have been huge
increase in the population. Now, this has resulted in increased demand for food,
cloth and shelter. New manufacturing industries have come up release some
harmful gases into the atmosphere which increases the greenhouse effect. Also,
more people means more usage of fossil fuels which in turn has aggravated the
problem.
4. Farming : Nitrous oxide is one the greenhouse gas that is used in fertilizer and
contributes to greenhouse effect which in turn leads to global warming.
5. Industrial waste and landfills : Industries which are involved in cement
production, fertilizers, coal mining activities, oil extraction produce harmful
greenhouse gases. Also, landfills filled with garbage produce carbon dioxide and
methane gas contributing significantly to greenhouse effect.





The Earth is wrapped in a blanket of air called the 'atmosphere', which is made up
of several layers of gases. The sun is much hotter than the Earth and it gives off
rays of heat (radiation) that travel through the atmosphere and reach the Earth.
The rays of the sun warm the Earth, and heat from the Earth then travels back
into the atmosphere. The gases in the atmosphere stop
some of the heat from escaping into space. These gases are
called greenhouse gases and the natural process between
the sun, the atmosphere and the Earth is called the
'Greenhouse Effect', because it works the same way as a
greenhouse. The windows of a greenhouse play the same role
as the gases in the atmosphere, keeping some of the heat
inside the greenhouse.



THE NATURAL GREENHOUSE EFFECT
The atmosphere has a number of gases, often in tiny amounts,
which trap the heat given out by the Earth.
To make sure that the Earth's temperature remains constant,
the balance of these gases in the atmosphere must not be
upset.






The GREENHOUSE GASES are very important and are mainly:
water vapour
occurs naturally in the atmosphere.

carbon dioxide
produced naturally when people and animals breathe. Plants and trees absorb
carbon dioxide to live. Volcanoes also produce this gas. Carbon dioxide is not the
same as carbon monoxide .

methane
comes from cattle as they digest their food. The gas also comes from fields
where rice is grown in paddy fields.

nitrous oxide
when plants die and rot, nitrous oxide is produced.

ozone
occurs naturally in the atmosphere.

THE ENHANCED GREENHOUSE EFFECT
Some of the activities of man also produce greenhouse gases. These gases keep
increasing in the atmosphere. The balance of the greenhouse gases changes and
this has effects on the whole of the planet.
Burning fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - releases
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Cutting down and
burning trees also produces a lot of
carbon dioxide.
A group of greenhouse gases called
the chlorofluorocarbons, - which are usually called CFCs, because the other word is
much too long! - have been used in aerosols, such as hairspray cans, fridges and in
making foam plastics. They are found in small amounts in the atmosphere. They are
dangerous greenhouse gases because small amounts can trap
large amounts of heat.
Because there are more and more greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere, more heat is trapped which makes the Earth
warmer. This is known as GLOBAL
WARMING.
A lot of scientists agree that man's
activities are making the natural greenhouse effect stronger. If
we carry on polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, it will
have very dangerous effects on the Earth.


THE EFFECTS
With more heat trapped on Earth, the planet will become
warmer, which means the weather all over Earth will change.
For example, summers will get hotter, and winters too. This
may seem a good idea, but the conditions we are living in are
perfect for life, and a large rise in temperature could be
terrible for us and for any other living thing on Earth.
At the moment, it is difficult for scientists to say how big the
changes will be and where the worse effects will occur.
The Weather
In Britain, winter and summer temperatures will increase
and the weather will be warmer. In winter it may also rain
more but in summer it may become drier.
In other parts of the world, the effects will be different,
some places will become drier and others will be wetter.
Although most areas will be warmer, some areas will
become cooler. There may be many storms, floods and
drought, but we do not know which areas of the world will
be affected.
All over the world, these weather changes will affect the kind
of crop that can be grown. Plants, animals and even people may
find it difficult to survive in different conditions.

Sea Levels
Higher temperatures will make the water of the seas and
oceans expand. Ice melting in the Antarctic and Greenland
will flow into the sea.
All over the world, sea levels may rise, perhaps by as much
as 20 to 40 cm, by the beginning of the next century.
Higher sea levels will threaten the low-lying coastal areas
of the world, such as the Netherlands and Bangladesh.
Throughout the world, millions of people and areas of land
will be at danger from flooding. Many people will have to
leave their homes and large areas of farmland will be ruined because of floods. In
Britain, East Anglia and the Thames estuary will be at risk from the rising sea.
Farming
The changes in the weather will affect the types of crops
grown in different parts of the world. Some crops, such as
wheat and rice grow better in higher temperatures, but
other plants, such as maize and sugarcane do not. Changes in
the amount of rainfall will also affect how many plants grow.
The effect of a change in the weather on plant growth may
lead to some countries not having enough food. Brazil, parts of
Africa, south-east Asia and China will be affected the most
and many people could suffer from hunger.

Water
Everywhere in the world, there is a
big demand for water and in many
regions, such as the Sahara in
Africa, there is not enough water for the people.Changes in
the weather will bring more rain in some countries, but
others will have less rain.
In Britain, the Southeast will be at risk from drought.

IN DANGER!
Plants & Animals
It has taken million of years for life to become used to
the conditions on Earth. As weather and temperature
changes, the homes of plants and animals will be affected
all over the world.
For example, polar bears and seals, will have to find new
land for hunting and living, if the ice
in the Arctic melts.
Many animals and plants may not be
able to cope with these changes and could die. This could
cause the loss of some animal and plant species in
certain areas of the world or everywhere on Earth.
People
The changes in climate will affect everyone, but some
populations will be at greater risk. For example, countries
whose coastal regions have a large
population, such as Egypt and China, may
see whole populations move inland to avoid
flood risk areas. The effect on people will
depend on how well we can adapt to the
changes and how much we can do to reduce climate change in
the world.















The Greenhouse Effect and Greenhouse Gasses
Have you ever been inside a greenhouse on a cold winter day? It might be cold
outside, but inside the greenhouse lush green plants flourish in the warmth and
sunshine. Greenhouses are made of glass and are designed to hold heat inside. Our
planet's atmosphere traps energy just like a greenhouse. Energy from the Sun can
enter the Earths atmosphere, but not all of it can easily find its way out again.
What blocks the Suns energy from escaping from the Earth? Unlike a greenhouse,
the Earth does not have a layer of glass over it! Instead, molecules in our
atmosphere called greenhouse gasses absorb the heat. Greenhouse gasses include
water vapor, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. There may not be
much of some of these gasses in our atmosphere, but they can have a big impact.
Each greenhouse gas molecule is made of three or more atoms that are bonded
loosely together. These molecules are able to absorb heat, which makes them
vibrate. They eventually release the heat energy and it is often absorbed by
another greenhouse gas molecule.
The greenhouse effect is useful because trapping some energy keeps the
temperatures on our planet mild and suitable for living things. Without its
atmosphere and the greenhouse effect, the average temperature at the surface of
the Earth would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. However, too many greenhouse gases
can cause the temperature to increase out of control. Such is the case on Venus
where greenhouse gases are abundant and the average temperature at the surface
is more than 855 degrees Fahrenheit (457 degrees Celsius).
You might hear people talking about the greenhouse effect as if it is a bad thing.
It is not a bad thing, but people are concerned because Earths greenhouse is
warming up very rapidly. This is happening because we are currently adding more
greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, causing an increased greenhouse effect. The
increased Greenhouse Effect is causing changes in our planet that can affect our
lives.


The Earth is wrapped in a blanket of air called the
'atmosphere', which is made up of several layers. About 19-
30 kilometres above the Earth is a layer of gas called ozone,
which is a form of oxygen. Ozone is produced naturally in
the atmosphere.

WHY DO WE HAVE AN OZONE LAYER?
The ozone layer is very important because it stops too many of the
sun's 'ultra-violet rays' (UV rays) getting through to the Earth -
these are the rays that cause our skin to tan. Too much UV can
cause skin cancer and will also harm all plants and animals. Life on
Earth could not exist without the protective shield of the ozone
layer.

WHAT IS THE OZONE HOLE?
Every spring, a hole as big as the USA develops in the ozone
layer over Antarctica, in the South Pole. A smaller hole
develops each year over the Arctic, at the North Pole. And
there are signs that the ozone layer is
getting thinner all over the planet.
Scientists have discovered that the ozone
hole over Antarctica started in 1979, and that the ozone layer
generally started to get thin in the early 1980s.
The loss of the ozone layer occurs when more ozone is being
destroyed than nature is creating.
WHAT CAUSES THE OZONE HOLE?
One group of gases is particularly likely to damage the
ozone layer. These gases are called CFCs, Chloro-Fluoro-
Carbons.
CFCs are used in some spray cans to force the
contents out of the can.
They are also used in refrigerators, air conditioning
systems and some fire extinguishers. They are used
because they are not poisonous and do not catch fire.
Most countries have now stopped using new CFCs
that can be released into the atmosphere, but many
scientists believe we must stop using old ones as well.

THE OZONE HOLE AND OUR HEALTH
The ozone layer is like a sunscreen, and a thinning of it would
mean that more ultra-violet rays would be reaching
us.
Too many UV rays would cause more sunburn, and
because sunburn causes skin cancer, this too would
increase deaths.
These UV rays are also dangerous for our eyes and could cause an
increase in people becoming blind. That is why sun cream and sunglasses are very
important.




THE OZONE HOLE ON ANIMALS AND PLANTS
UV rays can go through water and end up killing small water
animals or plants, called 'plankton' which form the base of
the food chain in oceans and seas. Whales and other fishes
have plankton as their main food, and if
plankton die because of these UV rays,
whales will start dying too, because they
will not have anything to eat. Large amounts of UV rays could
damage all green plants. If the ozone layer keeps getting
thinner, there could be fewer and fewer plants on Earth, then
there would be less food in the whole world.

THE TWO-FACED OZONE GAS
Ozone found between 19 and 30 kilometres high in the
atmosphere is one of the reasons why we are alive on Earth.
But when the gas ozone is found lower down where we can
breathe it in, it becomes very dangerous for our health.
This ozone is caused by a reaction between air pollution
and sunlight and can cause modern-day smog. This is
different to the smog that formed in the early 20th
century from smoke and fog.








What can you do:
There are many things we can do to help reduce air pollution and
global warming.
Use buses and trains instead of cars, as they can carry
a lot more people in one journey. This cuts down the
amount of pollution produced.
Walking or cycling whenever you can will be even
better, as it does not create any pollution. It will
also be good for your body, as regular exercise will keep you
fit and healthy.
If your parents must use the car, ask them to
avoid using it for very short journeys if
possible, as this creates unnecessary
pollution. Try to encourage them to share
their journeys with other people, for
example when they go to work or go
shopping. Also encourage them to drive more slowly as this produces less pollution
and less carbon dioxide.




Energy is produced to generate electricity and
to keep us warm. Most energy is produced by
the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas,
which release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
Fuel burnt in our cars also releases carbon
dioxide. As an individual, you do not have a lot
of control on how your energy is produced.
However, you can control the way in which you use that energy.
Using less energy means less of it needs to be produced. So less carbon dioxide is
released into the atmosphere.
We can also help prevent pollution from our own homes
which may contribute to acid rain and poor air quality, and
increases emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Turning off lights when they are not needed and not
wasting electricity will reduce the demand for energy. Less
electricity will need to be produced and so less coal, oil and
gas will have to be burnt in power stations, which means
less air pollution and less carbon dioxide!
Pollution formed indoors can be reduced by ensuring
that all gas appliances are working correctly. Good
ventilation will improve indoor air quality by dispersing
biological pollutants like dust mite, and other pollutants
such as cigarette smoke.
Most of the rubbish we throw away can be recycled, such as
glass bottles and jars, steel and aluminium cans, plastic
bottles and waste paper.
Recycling used materials uses less
energy than making new ones.
Composting fruit and vegetable waste reduces the amount of
rubbish buried at rubbish dumps.
What are the Governments doing?
Governments throughout the world have already taken action
for these different environmental problems (i.e. Acid Rain, Air
Quality, Ozone Hole, Global Warming). In their plans they hope
to reduce the amount of emissions of greenhouse gases
produced by man.
About half of the greenhouse effect is caused by
our use of energy, especially from fossil
fuels. Other sources of energy could be used which
do not emit carbon dioxide, e.g. wind
power, solar(sun power) and wave power. In the
home and at school, we must learn to use energy
efficiently and not waste it.













Ozone Depletion: An Introduction
Planet Earth has its own natural sunscreen that shields us from the sun's damaging
ultraviolet radiation. It's called the ozone layer: a fragile band of gases beginning
15 kilometres above our planet, and reaching up to the 40-kilometre level. Human
activities have caused a substantial thinning of this protective covering not only
over the North and South Poles, but right over our heads.
Stopping ozone layer depletion is one of the major challenges facing the world
today. The stakes are incredibly high. For the ozone layer is truly a "conserver of
life," essential to the survival of all living things.
The Stratospheric Ozone Layer
The ozone layer lies in the stratosphere, in the upper level of our atmosphere. The
ozone in it is spread very sparsely. In fact, if you could squish the ozone layer to
the same air pressure we have at sea level, it would be only about as thick as the
sole of your shoe.
Stratospheric ozone filters out most of the sun's potentially harmful shortwave
ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This ozone has become depleted, due to the release of
such ozone-depleting substances as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). When
stratospheric ozone is depleted, more UV rays reach the earth. Exposure to higher
amounts of UV radiation could have serious impacts on human beings, animals and
plants (see The Impacts of Ozone Depletion).
The stratospheric ozone layer sometimes gets confused with the ozone lying near
the earth's surface, known as "ground-level ozone." Although some ground-level
ozone occurs naturally, most is produced by the reaction of sunlight with chemicals
found mainly in automobile exhaust and gasoline vapours. This human-caused ozone
is a key, unhealthy ingredient of smog. Ironically, we have too much ozone at
ground level and not enough in the stratosphere.
Depletion of the Stratospheric Ozone Layer (Ozone Depletion)
In 1985, a group of scientists made an unsettling discovery: a marked decrease in
stratospheric ozone over the South Pole, in the Antarctic. The depletion appeared
during the southern hemisphere's spring (October and November) and then filled
in. Soon after the Antarctic hole was found, Canadian scientists discovered that
the ozone layer above the Arctic is also thinning significantly.
The highest latitudes the north and south poles experience the greatest
amount of ozone loss, during their spring. Ozone depletion is most pronounced in
the Antarctic. But ozone depletion, to a lesser degree, now occurs in the mid-
latitudes. For example, the amount of stratospheric ozone over the northern
hemisphere has been dropping by 4% per decade.
What does this mean for life on earth? Even the smallest reduction in
stratospheric ozone can have a noticeable impact by increasing the amount of UV
radiation that reaches the planet. Studies show, for example, that a decrease in
stratospheric ozone could cause additional deaths from skin cancer. Even a 1%
global reduction in ozone is expected to cause a significant drop in crop yields, in a
world that is already struggling to feed itself.
The Causes of Ozone Depletion
Scientific evidence indicates that stratospheric ozone is being destroyed by a
group of manufactured chemicals, containing chlorine and/or bromine. These
chemicals are called "ozone-depleting substances" (ODS).
ODS are very stable, nontoxic and environmentally safe in the lower atmosphere,
which is why they became so popular in the first place. However, their very
stability allows them to float up, intact, to the stratosphere. Once there, they are
broken apart by the intense ultraviolet light, releasing chlorine and bromine.
Chlorine and bromine demolish ozone at an alarming rate, by stripping an atom from
the ozone molecule. A single molecule of chlorine can break apart thousands of
molecules of ozone.
What's more, ODS have a long lifetime in our atmosphere up to several
centuries. This means most of the ODS we've released over the last 80 years are
still making their way to the stratosphere, where they will add to the ozone
destruction.
The main ODS are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs),
carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform. Halons (brominated fluorocarbons)
also play a large role. Their application is quite limited: they're used in specialized
fire extinguishers. But the problem with halons is they can destroy up to 10 times
as much ozone as CFCs can. For this reason, halons are the most serious ozone-
depleting group of chemicals emitted in British Columbia.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are being developed to replace CFCs and HCFCs, for
uses such as vehicle air conditioning. HFCs do not deplete ozone, but they are
strong greenhouse gases. CFCs are even more powerful contributors to global
climate change, though, so HFCs are still the better option until even safer
substitutes are discovered.
The Main Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS)
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
The most widely used ODS, accounting for over 80% of total
stratospheric ozone depletion.
Used as coolants in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners in buildings
and cars manufactured before 1995.
Found in industrial solvents, dry-cleaning agents and hospital sterilants.
Also used in foam products such as soft-foam padding (e.g. cushions and
mattresses) and rigid foam (e.g. home insulation).
Halons
Used in some fire extinguishers, in cases where materials and equipment
would be destroyed by water or other fire extinguisher chemicals. In B.C.,
halons cause greater damage to the ozone layer than do CFCs from
automobile air conditioners.
Methyl Chloroform
Used mainly in industry for vapour degreasing, some aerosols, cold
cleaning, adhesives and chemical processing.
Carbon Tetrachloride
Used in solvents and some fire extinguishers.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
HCFCs have become major, transitional substitutes for CFCs. They are
much less harmful to stratospheric ozone than CFCs are. But HCFCs they
still cause some ozone destruction and are potent greenhouse gases.

he Impacts of Ozone Depletion
Stratospheric ozone filters out most of the sun's potentially harmful shortwave
ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If this ozone becomes depleted, then more UV rays will
reach the earth. Exposure to higher amounts of UV radiation could have serious
impacts on human beings, animals and plants, such as the following:
Harm to human health:
More skin cancers, sunburns and premature aging of the skin.
More cataracts, blindness and other eye diseases: UV radiation can
damage several parts of the eye, including the lens, cornea, retina and
conjunctiva.
Cataracts (a clouding of the lens) are the major cause of blindness in the
world. A sustained 10% thinning of the ozone layer is expected to result
in almost two million new cases of cataracts per year, globally
(Environment Canada, 1993).
Weakening of the human immune system (immunosuppression). Early
findings suggest that too much UV radiation can suppress the human
immune system, which may play a role in the development of skin cancer.
Adverse impacts on agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems:
Several of the world's major crop species are particularly vulnerable to
increased UV, resulting in reduced growth, photosynthesis and flowering.
These species include wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn, soybeans, peas,
tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.
The effect of ozone depletion on the Canadian agricultural sector could
be significant.
Only a few commercially important trees have been tested for UV (UV-B)
sensitivity, but early results suggest that plant growth, especially in
seedlings, is harmed by more intense UV radiation.
Damage to marine life:
In particular, plankton (tiny organisms in the surface layer of oceans) are
threatened by increased UV radiation. Plankton are the first vital step in
aquatic food chains.
Decreases in plankton could disrupt the fresh and saltwater food chains,
and lead to a species shift in Canadian waters.
Loss of biodiversity in our oceans, rivers and lakes could reduce fish yields
for commercial and sport fisheries.
Animals:
In domestic animals, UV overexposure may cause eye and skin cancers.
Species of marine animals in their developmental stage (e.g. young fish,
shrimp larvae and crab larvae) have been threatened in recent years by
the increased UV radiation under the Antarctic ozone hole.
Materials:
Wood, plastic, rubber, fabrics and many construction materials are
degraded by UV radiation.
The economic impact of replacing and/or protecting materials could be
significant.

What Governments are Doing about Ozone Depletion
194 nations, including Canada, have signed an international agreement to end the
production ofchlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons and other ozone-depleting
substances (ODS). The agreement is called theMontreal Protocol on Substances
that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987). The protocol has been amended several
times, to speed up ODS phaseout dates and to include more types of ODS.
The federal and provincial/territorial governments share responsibility for
protecting the ozone layer. Under the Montreal Protocol, the federal government
is responsible for controlling the import, manufacture, use, sale and export of
ODS. To meet these requirements, Canada has established:
regulations;
an ODS-phaseout program: Canadas Strategy to Accelerate the Phase-Out of
CFC and Halon Uses and to Dispose of the Surplus Stocks (PDF: 211 KB/27
pages); and
the National Action Plan for the Environmental Control of Ozone-Depleting
Substances and their Halocarbon Alternatives (PDF: 117KB/42 pages).
For more information, see Environment Canada's Stratospheric Ozone website.
The provincial/territorial governments manage the use and handling of ODS. The
B.C. Government passed the Ozone Depleting Substances Regulation in 1993 to
control ODS stored in products and equipment, and encourage consumers and
industry to use more environmentally safe alternatives.
In Schedule A of the regulation, Class I lists all CFCs and halons, as well as methyl
chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. Class I substances are considered to have
the most significant impact on ozone layer depletion. Class II of Schedule A lists
all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are considered the transitional
substances or alternatives to Class I substances. Both Class I and Class II are
ozone-depleting substances.
The regulation was amended in November 1999, mainly to include other halocarbons
as Class III substances e.g., hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). The Class III substances do not contain chlorine or
bromine atoms, so they don't deplete the ozone layer. However, they are
considered potent greenhouse gases and have a significant global warming
potential (GWP).
The amendments in 1999 also strengthened certain requirements, and the
regulation was renamed the Ozone Depleting Substances and Other Halocarbons
Regulation. The regulation was amended again in 2004, largely to implement
Canadas National Action Plan, which includes phaseout dates for Class I substances
(Section 27 of the regulation).
These amendments also included additional CFC-refill restrictions for the mobile
and commercial refrigeration sectors, refill restrictions for halon fire
extinguishers and revised seller take-back provisions for surplus CFC refrigerators.
For more information and to download a copy of the regulation, see Amendments to
the Ozone Depleting Substances and Other Halocarbons Regulation.
To make sure ODS are recovered correctly, technicians working with these
chemicals must be an approved person as defined in the regulation. This includes
having successfully completed an ODS environmental-awareness course approved
by Environment Canada and the ministry. Technicians must also follow the
procedures detailed in Environment Canadas Environmental Code of Practice for
Elimination of Fluorocarbon Emissions from Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
Systems (PDF: 61 pages) and the Environmental Code of Practice for Halons.
B.C. no longer allows the recharging of a motor vehicle air conditioner (MVAC) with
any Class I substance, e.g., CFC-12, the common refrigerant in older air
conditioners. When vehicles are scrapped or their air conditioners are repaired,
the ODS must be recovered safely, with no leaks. A Class II, III or other
alternative substance must be used as the replacement refrigerant. Anyone
servicing an MVAC system must have successfully completed an MVAC servicing-
and-retrofitting course approved by the Ministry of Environment.

What You Can Do about Ozone Depletion
Help Prevent Further Ozone Depletion
The nations of the world have taken a crucial step in joining together to halt the
production and use of ozone-destroying chemicals. But the work can't stop there.
Here's what you can do:
Know the rules: It is illegal to recharge refrigerators, freezers and
home/vehicle air conditioners with CFCs.
If you have an older vehicle with an air conditioner*, have it serviced by a
qualified technician, and make sure the CFC is recaptured and recycled by
technician who is specifically certified to do this work. If you don't use your
air conditioner or if the vehicle is about to be scrapped make sure a
qualified technician recaptures and recycles the CFC.
*Vehicles of model year 1995 or newer do not use CFCs.
The same rules apply to older refrigerators freezers and home air
conditioners, which may contain CFCs.
Don't buy or use portable fire extinguishers that contain halons.
Protect Yourself from Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation
Some ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun has always reached the earth, but
most of it has been screened out by the ozone layer. There has always been a
reason for people to avoid too much of the sun's damaging rays. But this is true
now more than ever, due to ozone depletion. Be sun safe. Follow these tips:
There's no such thing as a "healthy" tan. Tanning isn't good for you, especially
when the ozone layer is depleted. Fair-skinned people are particularly
vulnerable to UV radiation, as are infants and children but everyone should
be careful.
Be aware that UV radiation is most intense during the summer, so take extra
precautions. Don't overlook all the "innocent" minutes throughout the year
when you're outside briefly. They can add up to a lot of radiation.
Sit in the shade, and avoid prolonged exposure when the sun is high: between
10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Wear protective clothing and a broad-brimmed sunhat. Sunglasses with 100%
UV protection are also important.
Use a good sunscreen and apply it liberally. It should have a sun-protection
factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and screen both UV-A and UV-B rays.
Reapply sunscreen after you've been swimming or perspiring a lot.
Check Environment Canada's UV Index: It helps Canadians protect themselves
from overexposure to UV radiation, by providing twice-daily forecasts of the
amount of radiation expected for different areas of the country.
Taking a holiday in your favourite tropical isle? Have fun, but be very cautious
about those UV rays. Though ozone depletion is not as pronounced near the
equator, the ultraviolet radiation is extremely intense, mainly due to the angle
of the sun.
Keep in mind that you can still get a lot of sun in the winter. Be especially
careful when you're doing outdoor sports, such as skiing. Reflection off fresh
snow nearly doubles UV radiation.















Greenhouse Gases
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which makes the Earth warmer.
People are adding several types of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and each
gas's effect on climate change depends on three main factors:
How much?

How long?


How powerful?

People produce larger amounts of some greenhouse gases than others. Carbon
dioxide is the greenhouse gas you hear people talk about the most. That's because
we produce more carbon dioxide than any other greenhouse gas, and it's
responsible for most of the warming.
Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas emitted by humans, but
several other gases contribute to climate change, too.Learn more about the major
greenhouse gases by selecting pieces of the pie chart below.




Water Vapor: It's a Gas!
Water can take the form of an invisible gas called water vapor. Water vapor is
naturally present in the atmosphere and has a strong effect on
weather
and climate.
As the planet gets warmer, more water evaporates from the Earth's surface and
becomes vapor in the atmosphere. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, so more water
vapor in the atmosphere leads to even more warming. This is an example of
a positive feedback loop, which happens when warming causes changes that lead to
even more warming.

The size of each piece of the pie represents the amount of warming that each gas
is currently causing in the atmosphere as a result of emissions from people's
activities. Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment
Report (2007).



Source: EPA's Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (2014).
Greenhouse gases come from all sorts of everyday activities, such as using
electricity, heating our homes, and driving around town. The graph to the right
shows which activities produce the most greenhouse gases in the United States.
These greenhouse gases don't just stay in one place after they're added to the
atmosphere. As air moves around the world, greenhouse gases become globally
mixed, which means the concentration of a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide is
roughly the same no matter where you measure it. Even though some countries
produce more greenhouse gases than others, emissions from every country
contribute to the problem. That's one reason why climate change requires global
action. The graph below shows how the world's total greenhouse gas emissions are
continuing to increase every year.

Source: EPA's Climate Change Indicators (2012).