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Green House Gases and

Global Warming Issues

Name- Shashwat Jain

A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is

a gas in an atmosphere
that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal

infrared range. This process is the fundamental

cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary
greenhouse gases in the Earth's
atmosphere are water vapor, carbon
dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.
Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of
the Earth; without them, Earth's surface would
average about 33 C colder, which is about 59 F
below the present average of 14 C (57 F).
Since the beginning of the Industrial
Revolution (taken as the year 1750), the burning
of fossil fuels and extensive clearing of native forests
has contributed to a 40% increase in the
atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, from
280 to 392.6 parts per million (ppm) in 2012 and has
now reached 400 ppm in the northern hemisphere.
This increase has occurred despite the uptake of a
large portion of the emissions by various natural

"sinks" involved in the carbon

cycle. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions
come from combustion of carbon-based fuels,
principally wood, coal, oil, and natural gas.

Under ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, available

Earth System Models project that the Earth's surface
temperature could exceed historical analogs as early
as 2047 affecting most ecosystems on Earth and the
livelihoods of over 3 billion
people worldwide. Greenhouse gases also
trigger ocean bio-geochemical changes with broad
ramifications in marine systems.

The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

How the Greenhouse Effect Works
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an atmospheric constituent that
plays several vital roles in the environment. It absorbs
infrared radiation in the atmosphere. It plays a crucial role
in the weathering of rocks. It is the raw material for
photosynthesis and its carbon is incorporated into organic
matter in the biosphere and may eventually be stored in
the Earth as fossil fuels.
Most of the sun's energy that falls on the Earth's surface is
in the visible light portion of the electromagnetic
spectrum. This is in large part because the Earth's
atmosphere is transparent to these wavelengths (we all
know that with a functioning ozone layer, the higher
frequencies like ultraviolet are mostly screened out). Part
of the sunlight is reflected back into space, depending on
the albedo or reflectivity of the surface. Part of the
sunlight is absorbed by the Earth and held as thermal
energy. This heat is then re-radiated in the form of longer
wavelength infrared radiation. While the dominant gases
of the atmosphere (nitrogen and oxygen) are transparent
to infrared, the so-called greenhouse gasses, primarily
water vapor (H2O), CO2, and methane (CH4), absorb some
of the infrared radiation.

They collect this heat energy and hold it in the

atmosphere, delaying its passage back out of the
Due in part to the warming effects of the greenhouse
gases, the global average temperature is about 15C
(59F). Without the greenhouse gases the global average
temperature would be much colder, about -18C (0F).
Greenhouse Gas Induced Global Warming
Since the industrial revolution got into full swing in the
19th century we have been burning ever increasing
amounts of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, natural gas) in
electric generating plants, manufacturing plants, trains,
automobiles, airplanes, etc. Burning releases CO2 into the
atmosphere (much the same as respiration does). These
fossil fuels may have formed tens or hundreds of millions
of years ago from the buried and preserved remains of
plant and animal matter whose carbon originated via
Photosynthesis and respiration in plants, animals, fungi,
bacteria, etc. exchange carbon between the CO2 in the
atmosphere and carbon compounds in organisms. But
humans are now putting this natural carbon cycle out of
balance. Because of the emission of CO2 long-stored

Sidebar: Photosynthesis - Respiration-Combustion

CO2 + H2O + sunlight -> CH2O + O2
O2 + CH2O -> energy + H2O + CO2
O2 + hydrocarbons -> energy + H2O + CO2

in fossil fuels the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has

increased from about 289 parts per million before the
industrial revolution to over 360 parts per million and

rising. Sometime during the 21st century the

concentration of CO2 will be twice what it was before the
industrial revolution.
With higher CO2 concentrations come expectations of a
stronger greenhouse effect and therefore warmer global
temperatures. This was originally proposed by a chemist
named Arrhenius about a century ago. Global average
temperatures have risen by a small, but measurable
amount in the past 100 years, apparently in large part
because of the higher level of atmospheric CO2. Global
average temperatures are expected to be on the order of 25C (3.6-9F) higher by the time CO2 doubles the preindustrial concentration.
Consequences of Global Warming
A whole host of consequences will result. Some are
probably already occurring. Temperature measurements of
the sea surface and deep ocean indicate that the oceans are
warming. Rising ocean temperature causes rising sea level
from thermal expansion of the water. Rising temperature
also means melting glaciers and rising sea level through
addition of melt water to the oceans.

Rising sea level will cause increasing coastal erosion,

flooding, and property damage during coastal storms on
top of the potential for major loss of life from storms in
low-lying coastal countries like Bangladesh and island
nations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Warmer sea surface temperatures will result in more and

stronger tropical storms (hurricanes and typhoons).
Coastlines already ravaged by these storms will expect to
see more strong storms than before, increasing the loss of
life and damage to infrastructure.
Natural ecosystems will be hard pressed to keep up with
the changing climate because the rate of change will be
faster than typical long-term natural climate change.
What Can We Do About Global Warming?
We can't realistically stop the rise of CO2 in the near term,
but we can slow it and therefore reduce the consequences
that will occur. More fuel-efficient cars, less frivolous
driving, more use of mass transit, improved insulation to
decrease the fuel burned to heat and cool our homes, more
efficient appliances, use of fluorescent rather than
incandescent light bulbs , and careful monitoring of home
electricity usage (turn off the lights and TV when not
using them) can reduce our energy needs. Conversion to
alternatives like wind and solar power which don't burn

All emission estimates from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse

Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2012.

fossil fuels and emit CO2 into the atmosphere. Planting

large areas with trees will consume CO2 as the trees grow,
until the forests mature. Stopping deforestation in the
tropical forests around the world, especially in the
Amazon and Indonesian rain forests, will keep that carbon
in the forest rather than sending it back into the
atmosphere as the trees are burned or decay and are not
replaced by more. Other techniques have also been
proposed such as the chemical removal of CO2 from
smokestacks and burial in deep underground reservoirs,
though only certain areas can benefit from this, or
disposal in the deep ocean where they will form a semistable compound under the cold temperatures and high
pressures, though the CO2 could too easily come bubbling
back up. These latter solutions are not well studied and
wouldn't be especially cheap.
Moreover, leaders, societies, communities, local planners,
farmers, health organizations, need to recognize the
changing climate and rising sea level as they make plans
for the future. Our citizens need to be educated as to
likely changes and how best to deal with the changing

Total Emissions in 2012 = 6,526 Million Metric Tons of

CO2 equivalent

Overview of Greenhouse Gases

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called
greenhouse gases. This section provides information
on emissions and removals of the main greenhouse
gases to and from the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) : Carbon dioxide enters the
atmosphere through burning fossil fuels, solid waste,
trees and wood products, and also as a result of
certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of
cement). Carbon dioxide is removed from the
atmosphere (or "sequestered") when it is absorbed
by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.
Methane (CH4) : Methane is emitted during the
production and transport of coal, natural gas,
and oil. Methane emissions also result from
livestock and other agricultural practices and by
the decay of organic waste in municipal solid
waste landfills.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) : Nitrous oxide is emitted
during agricultural activities.
Fluorinated gases : Hydrofluorocarbons,
perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are

synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are

emitted from a variety of industrial processes.
Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sector in 2012

Total Emissions in 2012 = 6,526 Million Metric Tons of

CO2 equivalent Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 1990-2012

Each gas's effect on climate change depends on

three main factors:
How much of these gases are in the atmosphere?
Concentration, or abundance, is the amount of a
particular gas in the air. Larger emissions of
greenhouse gases lead to higher concentrations in
the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas concentrations
are measured in parts per million, parts per billion,
and even parts per trillion. One part per million is
equivalent to one drop of water diluted into about 13
gallons of liquid (roughly the fuel tank of a compact
How long do they stay in the atmosphere?
Each of these gases can remain in the atmosphere for
different amounts of time, ranging from a few years to
thousands of years
How strongly do they impact global temperatures?
Some gases are more effective than others at making the
planet warmer and "thickening the Earth's blanket."

For each greenhouse gas, a Global Warming Potential

(GWP) has been calculated to reflect how long it remains
in the atmosphere, on average, and how strongly it
absorbs energy.

Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer.
Human activities are responsible for almost all of the
increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the
last 150 years. The largest source of greenhouse gas
emissions from human activities in the United States is
from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and
The primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the
United States are:
Electricity production (32% of 2012
greenhouse gas emissions) - Electricity
production generates the largest share of
greenhouse gas emissions. Over 70% of
our electricity comes from burning fossil
fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.
Transportation (28% of 2012 greenhouse
gas emissions) - Greenhouse gas
emissions from transportation primarily
come from burning fossil fuel for our cars,
trucks, ships, trains, and planes. Over 90%
of the fuel used for transportation is

petroleum based, which includes gasoline

and diesel.

Industry (20% of 2012 greenhouse gas

emissions) - Greenhouse gas emissions
from industry primarily come from burning
fossil fuels for energy as well as
greenhouse gas emissions from certain
chemical reactions necessary to produce
goods from raw materials.
Commercial and Residential (10% of 2012
greenhouse gas emissions) - Greenhouse
gas emissions from businesses and homes
arise primarily from fossil fuels burned for
heat, the use of certain products that
contain greenhouse gases, and the
handling of waste.
Agriculture (10% of 2012 greenhouse gas
emissions) - Greenhouse gas emissions
from agriculture come from livestock such
as cows, agricultural soils, and rice
Land Use and Forestry (offset of 15% of
2012 greenhouse gas emissions) - Land
areas can act as a sink (absorbing
CO2 from the atmosphere) or a source of

greenhouse gas emissions. In the United

States, since 1990, managed forests and
other lands have absorbed more CO2 from
the atmosphere than they emit.

GHG data from UNFCCC

In accordance with Articles of the Climate Change
Convention, countries that are Parties to the
Convention submit national greenhouse gas (GHG)
inventories to the Climate Change secretariat. The
inventory data are provided in the annual GHG
inventory submissions by Annex I Parties and in the
national communications under the Convention by
non-Annex I Parties.
The GHG data reported by Parties contain
estimates for direct greenhouse gases, such as:
CO2 - Carbon dioxide;CH4 Methane;N2O - Nitrous
oxide;PFCs Perfluorocarbons;HFCs
Hydrofluorocarbons;SF6 - Sulphur hexafluoride
as well as for the indirect greenhouse gases such
as SO2, NOx, CO and NMVOC.

Why is global warming a problem?

The cost and benefits of global warming will vary greatly from area to area.
For moderate climate change, the balance can be difficult to assess. But the
larger the change in climate, the more negative the consequences will
become. Global warming will probably make life harder, not easier, for most
people. This is mainly because we have already built enormous infrastructure
based on the climate we now have.
People in some temperate zones may benefit from milder winters, more
abundant rainfall, and expanding crop production zones. But people in other
areas will suffer from increased heat waves, coastal erosion, rising sea level,
more erratic rainfall, and droughts.
The crops, natural vegetation, and domesticated and wild animals (including
seafood) that sustain people in a given area may be unable to adapt to local
or regional changes in climate. The ranges of diseases and insect pests that
are limited by temperature may expand, if other environmental conditions
are also favorable.

The problems seem especially obvious in cases where current societal trends
appear to be on a collision course with predictions of global warmings
at the same time that sea levels are rising, human population
continues to grow most rapidly in flood-vulnerable, low-lying coastal
places where famine and food insecurity are greatest in todays world
are not places where milder winters will boost crop or vegetation
productivity, but instead, are places where rainfall will probably become
less reliable, and crop productivity is expected to fall;
the countries most vulnerable to global warmings most serious side
effects are among the poorest and least able to pay for the medical and
social services and technological solutions that will be needed to adapt to
climate change.
In its summary report on the impacts of climate change, the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated, Taken as a whole, the
range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate
change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.

Effects of Global Warming

Signs Are Everywhere
The planet is warming, from North Pole to South Pole, and everywhere in
between. Globally, the mercury is already up more than 1 degree
Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius), and even more in sensitive polar regions.
And the effects of rising temperatures arent waiting for some far-flung
future. Theyre happening right now. Signs are appearing all over, and
some of them are surprising. The heat is not only melting glaciers and sea
ice, its also shifting precipitation patterns and setting animals on the move.
Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening.

Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earths poles. This includes

mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland,
and Arctic sea ice.

Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adlie penguins
on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding
pairs to 11,000 in 30 years.

Sea level rise became faster over the last century.

Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north
or to higher, cooler areas.

Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on


Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of

warm summers. The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce

Other effects could happen later this century, if warming continues.

Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59
centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the
poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).

Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become

Species that depend on one another may become out of
sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their
pollinating insects become active.
Floods and droughts will become more common.
Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already
common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50
Less fresh water will be available. If the Quelccaya ice
cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate, it will be
gone by 2100, leaving thousands of people who rely on
it for drinking water and electricity without a source of
Some diseases will spread, such as malaria carried by
Ecosystems will changesome species will move
farther north or become more successful; others wont
be able to move and could become extinct. Wildlife
research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since
the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for
food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier.
Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar

pattern in Hudson Bay. He fears that if sea ice

disappears, the polar bears will as well.

Source for climate information: IPCC, 2007

Global warming is indeed a serious issue which
needs to be tackled before it is too late. Various
measures have been taken and more ought to be
taken not only by the government organizations
alone, but people too should participate equally.
The greatest problem is to make people aware
about this threat and to make them realize that every
step counts. Focus should be on to invent more
efficient technologies which can promote sustainable
development. Strict rules should be imposed on
industries regarding their waste emissions and they
should be monitored periodically.

Proper planning should be done before cutting

forests so that the area taken under cutting should
be equally planted in nearby areas.
People should be made to believe and understand
that they can make a change and help in making the
Earth a safer place to live for our future generations.
It is our duty to take care of our ancestral and holy
Earth. We should realize that sustainable
development alone can help us in meeting our
current demands and preserving the precious earth
for future needs.