Greenhouse gases are gases that trap solar radiations, leading to a rise in the temperatures registered at the surface of the Earth. This rise of the average temperature on Earth has been observed since the end of the 19th century, rise that is expected to continue in the years to come. These gases that trap heat in the atmosphere have grown in concentration as a result of human activities like burning fossil fuels, of solid waste and wood products, agricultural and mining activities and deforestation.
We will discuss some of the causes behind the rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the following:
- The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere. Once carbon and oxygen combine in the air, carbon dioxide is obtained, which is an important component of the atmosphere, but one whose concentration should not exceed a certain level. The atmosphere concentration of CO2 has risen by a third since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and this is one of the gases that trap heat in the lower atmosphere.
- The great demand for electricity takes us back to bullet no.1, since most electricity is generated by burning coal.
- The growing demand for red meat has led to more cattle being grown, and cattle are responsible for large amounts of methane being released in the atmosphere, a toxic greenhouse gas. Moreover, the need for areas in which cattle could graze and where crops could be grown for animal feeding purposes has contributed to deforestation, which leads us to the next point…
- Deforestation is associated with a rise in the greenhouse gas concentration for two reasons: carbon is released by burning or logging forests; Earth’s natural “sink” of carbon dioxide is reduced by replacing forests with crops and farms. Trees are an important part of the planet’s natural means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, since they use this gas in the process of photosynthesis, like all other plants. This means that global deforestation increases the output of greenhouse gas emission and decreases the ability of “sinking” these gases at the same time.
Since greenhouse gases can impact Earth’s natural balance once their concentration is seriously influenced by human activity, solutions are now sought after so that their emission is decreased.