The main gas responsible for the man-made climate change that we now ‘enjoy’ is carbon dioxide. It is also known by its scientific name CO2. Every year we pump more and more CO2 into our atmosphere where it traps more and more heat.
Despite what you may have heard lately, the greenhouse effect is not all bad – we actually need it. If we didn’t have heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, Earth’s average temperature would be –18 degrees. Great for penguins (and things that eat penguins) but absolutely horrible for us!
The two most common gases in the air are oxygen and nitrogen. These two gases do not hold heat; it passes straight through them.
The problem gases are the greenhouse gases – water, methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride. These all trap heat (like a woolly jumper), which is okay to a point.
But we have long passed that point! Earth is wearing too many jumpers!
Every decade our Earth is getting hotter, the 10 hottest years ever recorded have all occurred in the past 15 years and every year the sea levels are rising – not ideal! If we continue with business as usual, parts of our planet will become uninhabitable due to heat, flood and drought.
Carbon dioxide is the most abundant of the problem gases. They drift around in our atmosphere for over one hundred years trapping heat.
Water vapour is also a greenhouse gas (GHG), but it is not as variable as other GHGs, as it is steady and falls as rain within a few hours, or days at most.