As the state of Earth’s climate continues to decline, its problems become more complex. In order to make positive change to slow down and hopefully reverse the damage we have done it is essential to understand the major drivers of climate change. One of the most prominent drivers of climate change is the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is highly likely that everyone has at least heard this term at some point in the recent years, but it is highly unlikely that everyone knows what they are or why they are so detrimental to the health of the planet.
To understand how greenhouse gases play a role in climate change, it is first important to understand what exactly they are. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide. At first glance, the term ‘greenhouse gas’ doesn’t seem to terrible, in fact greenhouses are an incredible invention that allow for the growth of crops during the winter season and are a great educational tool for students of science and agriculture. The link in name comes from the functionality of the gas and the greenhouse itself. Greenhouses work by trapping heat and keeping its little atmosphere at an optimal temperature and dampness to ensure healthy crop growth. Similarly, greenhouse gases work by trapping heat in the very large atmosphere that encompasses the entire planet, thus increasing global temperature; it is because of greenhouses gases that we have global warming.
Greenhouses gases themselves are not inherently damaging to the planet, in fact they keep us from another ice age, and provide us with the optimal temperature to survive as a human race. It is the dramatic increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that is so alarming and so detrimental. As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, we see a steady increase in global temperature which leads to melting ice sheets, rising sea levels and extinction of species due to habitat damage.
Clearly, greenhouse gases are very dangerous, and their use needs to be seriously regulated in order to pursue a healthier planet. From a personal level, there are certainly steps you can take to reduce your own greenhouse gas emittance. The most obvious gas to address is CO2 and you can limit this by reducing your use of personal transportation; walking, biking, carpooling, and utilizing public transportation are all viable methods to get where you need to go while reducing your carbon footprint. To address methane, as we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, limiting food waste can play a huge role as we know that it emits methane if not decomposed properly. Another way to tackle methane is by limiting your consumption of animal products, specifically beef and dairy, as cows are a major methane contributor. If you are willing to take action to reduce your personal contribution to the state of the atmosphere, do some research to figure out your carbon and methane footprint. Everything can be adjusted and change can be made.