Greenhouse Gas - Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases

Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases

This bar graph shows global greenhouse gas emissions by sector from 1990 to 2005, measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. Modern global anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Since about 1750 human activity has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Measured atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are currently 100 ppm higher than pre-industrial levels. Natural sources of carbon dioxide are more than 20 times greater than sources due to human activity, but over periods longer than a few years natural sources are closely balanced by natural sinks, mainly photosynthesis of carbon compounds by plants and marine plankton. As a result of this balance, the atmospheric mole fraction of carbon dioxide remained between 260 and 280 parts per million for the 10,000 years between the end of the last glacial maximum and the start of the industrial era.

It is likely that anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) warming, such as that due to elevated greenhouse gas levels, has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. Future warming is projected to have a range of impacts, including sea level rise, increased frequencies and severities of some extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, and regional changes in agricultural productivity.

The main sources of greenhouse gases due to human activity are:

  • burning of fossil fuels and deforestation leading to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. Land use change (mainly deforestation in the tropics) account for up to one third of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
  • livestock enteric fermentation and manure management, paddy rice farming, land use and wetland changes, pipeline losses, and covered vented landfill emissions leading to higher methane atmospheric concentrations. Many of the newer style fully vented septic systems that enhance and target the fermentation process also are sources of atmospheric methane.
  • use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigeration systems, and use of CFCs and halons in fire suppression systems and manufacturing processes.
  • agricultural activities, including the use of fertilizers, that lead to higher nitrous oxide (N
    2O) concentrations.

The seven sources of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion are (with percentage contributions for 2000–2004):

Seven main fossil fuel
combustion sources
Liquid fuels (e.g., gasoline, fuel oil) 36%
Solid fuels (e.g., coal) 35%
Gaseous fuels (e.g., natural gas) 20%
Cement production 3 %
Flaring gas industrially and at wells < 1%
Non-fuel hydrocarbons < 1%
"International bunker fuels" of transport
not included in national inventories
4 %

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide (N
2O) and three groups of fluorinated gases (sulfur hexafluoride (SF
6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs)) are the major anthropogenic greenhouse gases, and are regulated under the Kyoto Protocol international treaty, which came into force in 2005. Emissions limitations specified in the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012. The Cancún agreement, agreed in 2010, includes voluntary pledges made by 76 countries to control emissions. At the time of the agreement, these 76 countries were collectively responsible for 85% of annual global emissions.

Although CFCs are greenhouse gases, they are regulated by the Montreal Protocol, which was motivated by CFCs' contribution to ozone depletion rather than by their contribution to global warming. Note that ozone depletion has only a minor role in greenhouse warming though the two processes often are confused in the media.

Read more about this topic:  Greenhouse Gas

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