Causes of Climate Change

climate changes greenhouse effect

The Greenhouse Effect

The earth naturally has a layer of greenhouse gases which are important to maintaining the temperature of our earth and supporting life as we know it.

The main components of that “greenhouse” layer might actually be a bit of a surprise to you.

It is actually water vapor.

However the occurrence of water vapor in the atmosphere is viewed more as a changing variable that occurs in the atmosphere more in response to other more long lasting gases like carbon dioxide, methane, & nitrous oxide.

Most scientists agree that the activities that we partake in that contribute to the release of these gases is what has the largest effect on our changing climate.

The NASA website says:

Most scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the “greenhouse effect” — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.

The most significant changes to earth’s climate change have occurred since the start of the industrial revolution.

Some important gases that play a role in climate change are:

  • Water Vapor
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Chlorofluorocarbons

Of the above gases human activities directly contribute to a large degree all but the water vapor which is called a “feedback” in the system or it could be said changes based on how much of the other fases are introduced.

Let’s first examine carbon dioxide.

While carbon dioxide is actually a minor component in the atmosphere it plays a major role.

While carbon dioxide is released through natural means like breathing and volcanic activity other human activity has made a much larger contribution to this greenhouse gas in our atmosphere.

Two of these contributing activities are the burning of fossil fuels (like coal & oil) & deforestation.

The next gas is Methane.

The NASA website has this to say:

A hydrocarbon gas produced both through natural sources and human activities, including the decomposition of wastes in landfills, agriculture, and especially rice cultivation, as well as ruminant digestion and manure management associated with domestic livestock. On a molecule-for-molecule basis, methane is a far more active greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but also one which is much less abundant in the atmosphere.

As you can see human activities are large contributors to the increase of this gas in our atmosphere.

Nitrous Oxide is primarily produced by such human activities as fossil fuel combustion, the use of chemicaland organic fertilizers,  nitric acid production, & biomass burning.

And the last greenhouse gas we will cover is Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

CFC’s are 100% synthetic compounds and 100% a product of modern industry. They are now largely regulated (internationally) due to their environmentally destructive nature and to their threat to our o-zone.

They are however still a greenhouse gas and pose a threat to our environment and to our climate.

As we learn more about the effects of these and other greenhouse gases we continue to learn more about their direct effects on our climate.

The next article will be on how climate change effects our planet.