What Are Greenhouse Gases

what are green house gases

Explained: What Are Greenhouse Gases?

A greenhouse gas is any gas that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation from the sun and re-radiating it back to earth’s surface. There are several greenhouse gases, but the most important ones are carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. Some of the minor ones include nitrous oxides, and fluorinated gases. All these gases can trap energy from the sun.


Greenhouse gases have a severe impact on the energy budget of the Earth system. The concentration of these gases has varied substantially in history. Research suggests that the substantial climate changes that have been noted in the past result from the variations in the concentration of greenhouse gases. For instance, the concentration of greenhouse gases has been significantly high during warmer periods and lower during colder periods.

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

This is a natural process that is responsible for keeping the surface of the Earth warm. When energy from the sun reaches the surface of the Earth, some of it gets reflected into space, and the remainder is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases. The energy that is absorbed and re-radiated is responsible for maintaining the temperature of the Earth at about 33 degrees Celsius more than it would be in the absence of the greenhouse effect. This is what makes it possible for life on Earth to exist.

Enhanced Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is a natural process that helps to support life on Earth. However, the problem starts when excessive greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. When there are excessive greenhouse gases in circulation, too much energy from the sun is absorbed and re-radiated back to the surface. This is why an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases ends up causing excessive warming of the Earth.

Where do THE Extra Greenhouse Gases Come From?

Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases. Many human activities lead to the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These include the following:


In countries like the United States, transportation is accountable for about 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This is by far the largest source of greenhouse gases. Ships, trucks, planes, and cars burn fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel for energy, and in the process, gases like carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere.

Electricity Generation

The generation of electricity is responsible for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the second-largest contributor, only coming second to transportation. More than half of the electricity used in the United States comes from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.


When it comes to the emission of greenhouse gases, the industry comes third, contributing about 23 percent of the total emissions. Much like transportation and the generation of electricity, the emission of greenhouse gases from industry results from burning fossil fuels for energy. There is also a good percentage of greenhouse gases emitted from specific chemical reactions required to change raw materials into finished products.

Commercial and Residential

These two are responsible for about 13 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Homes and businesses burn fossil fuels for heat. They also produce more greenhouse gases through the handling of waste and use of particular products that contain greenhouse gases.


Even agriculture is also a source of greenhouse gases. Agricultural activities are responsible for about a tenth of the total greenhouse gas emissions. These greenhouse gases come from livestock such as cattle, soil tillage, and rice production.

High Global Warming Potential (GWP) Gases

Some industrial gases have abnormal global warming potential. These gases can absorb and re-radiate a lot of heat, which are human-made industrial

  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Perfluorocarbons
  • Sulfur hexafluoride
  • Nitrogen trifluoride


The production of these gases causes a lot of heat to be trapped, which increases the Earth’s temperature.


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