Greenhouse gases have many sources, but have the common thread of existing in only four forms:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Methane (CH4)
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
- Fluorinated gases
These gases constitute about 1% of Earth’s atmosphere, the rest being comprised of nitrogen and oxygen (the primary gases). In spite of the very low concentrations of these secondary gases, they are responsible for trapping heat in our atmosphere, stabilizing temperatures at the Earth’s surface and making life as we know it possible.
Greenhouse gases block the re-radiation of Earth’s heat into space.
Past Greenhouse Gas Levels
Greenhouse gas levels have cycled throughout Earth’s history as a result of natural causes. As a result, the Earth has warmed and cooled through the millennia. However, this does not include the recently introduced anthropogenic fluorinated gases.
Present Greenhouse Gas Levels
The current change is unprecedented. We are increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases on a magnitude that has no historical precedent.
Effects of Greenhouse Gases
The effects of rising greenhouse gases are devastating for the planet:
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The solutions are easy to understand, if more difficult to implement on a broad scale. But if you can do your part individually while inspiring others to join you, it will act as a catalyst for larger organizations.
Reducing Carbon Emissions
You simply have to use less energy to reduce carbon emissions. Alternative energy sources can help, but they will be much more effectively applied if you can aggressively reduce your energy use as you adopt these new technologies.
- Using less energy in your home
- Driving less
- Walking, biking, and using mass transit
Reducing Methane Emissions
Only concerted actions can minimize methane emissions on the part of citizens, governments, and corporations.
On the corporate and government levels, this means:
- Better management of landfills
- Better management of cattle
As an individual, you can:
- Eat less meat
- Compost kitchen waste
- Compost yard waste
Some methane releases are unpredictable, such as those from the tundra or the ocean, and may be unstoppable if they are allowed to proceed too far. That is all the more reason that you must act quickly.
Reducing Nitrogen Oxide Emissions
Business and government can reduce N2O gas with:
- Pollution controls
- Improved agricultural management
- Burn less fossil fuel
- Use less energy
- Eat less meat
Reducing Fluorinated Gas Emissions
These gases are related to our consumption of consumer products, and our use of refrigerators and air conditioners. The use of these gases is impacted by government regulation and industry practice, but the bottom line for environmental protection is ultimately individual consumption.
Minimize your consumption of these products, the manufacture of which results in the creation of fluorinated gases:
- Semiconductor electronics
- Refrigerators and air conditioners
You can live a longer, more fulfilling life if you use fewer consumer products, less energy and fewer appliances than you now use. In doing so, you will improve the quality of the lives of your children, their children, and the many generations to come.
Author: Brown, Nathan. A Cooler Climate, 2008.