Despite being of utmost importance to the Earth and its inhabitants, greenhouse gases have brought ever-increasing harm to mankind.
The effects of greenhouse gases on the environment have been increased by anthropogenic activities that have increased the abundance of these gases in the atmosphere.
What are Greenhouse Gases?
Gases in the atmosphere known as greenhouse gases have an impact on the energy balance of the planet. The so-called greenhouse effect is a result of these.
Low concentrations of the three most well-known greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide—can be found in the atmosphere naturally.
Certain greenhouse gases are only released by human activity (e.g., synthetic halocarbons). Others exist naturally but are present in increased quantities due to human inputs (e.g., carbon dioxide) (e.g., carbon dioxide).
Energy-related activities (such as the burning of fossil fuels in the electric utility and transportation sectors), agriculture, changing land uses, waste management and treatment practices, and other industrial operations are all examples of anthropogenic causes.
What Causes the Greenhouse Effect?
These are the main reasons behind the greenhouse effect.
1. Burning of Fossil Fuels
Our lives rely heavily on fossil fuels. They are commonly utilized to generate electricity and for transportation. Carbon dioxide is released during fossil fuel combustion.
The use of fossil fuels has expanded along with population growth. The atmospheric release of greenhouse gases has increased as a result of this.
Carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants and trees, which then release oxygen. The chopping of trees causes a significant increase in greenhouse gases, which raises the temperature of the earth.
One of the factors in the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect is the nitrous oxide used in fertilizers.
4. Industrial Waste and Landfills
Hazardous gases are produced by businesses and manufacturers and released into the atmosphere.
Additionally, landfills release methane and carbon dioxide, which contribute to greenhouse gases.
7 Effects of Greenhouse Gases on the Environment
The following are the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment
1. Water Vapor
The troposphere contains water in the form of vapor and clouds. Tyndal noted in 1861 that the most significant gaseous absorber of changes in infrared light was water vapor.
According to more precise calculations, clouds and water vapor account for 49 and 25%, respectively, of the long wave (thermal) absorption.
However, compared to other GHGs like CO2, the atmospheric lifespan of water vapor is short (days) (years). The regional variations in water vapor concentrations are not directly influenced by human activity.
However, due to the indirect effects of human activity on global temperatures and the production of water vapor, also referred to as water vapor feedback, the warming is amplified.
2. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
20% of the thermal absorption is caused by carbon dioxide.
Organic decomposition, oceanic release, and respiration are all examples of natural sources of CO2.
Sources of anthropogenic CO2 include making cement, clearing forests, and burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, among other things.
Surprisingly, industry accounts for 21% of direct CO2 emissions, whereas 24% comes from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses.
From about 270 mol.mol-1 in 1750 to current amounts higher than 385 mol.mol-1, the atmospheric CO2 content has increased considerably during the previous two centuries.
Since the 1970s, approximately half of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2010 have occurred.
The global mean surface temperature is predicted to rise by 3-5°C in 2100 as a result of the high CO2 concentrations and water’s positive feedback.
3. Methane (CH4)
The primary organic trace gas in the atmosphere is methane (CH4). The main element of natural gas, a global fuel source, is CH4.
Agriculture and the raising of cattle both contribute significantly to CH4 emissions, although fossil fuel use is mostly to blame.
Since the pre-industrial era, CH4 concentrations have increased by a factor of two. The current average concentration across the globe is 1.8 mol.mol-1.
Although its concentration is just 0.5% of that of CO2, there are worries about an increase in CH4 atmospheric emission. In fact, as a GHG, it is 30 times more potent than CO2.
Along with carbon monoxide (CO), CH4 produces O3 (see below), which helps to regulate the quantity of OH in the troposphere.
4. Nitrous Oxides (NxO)
Nitric oxide (NO) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are both considered greenhouse gases (GHG). Their global emissions have increased during the past century, mostly as a result of human activity. The soil releases NO and N2O.
N2O is a potent GHG, but NO indirectly aids in the creation of O3. N2O has the potential to be 300 times more potent as a GHG than CO2. The former initiates the removal of O3 once in the stratosphere.
N2O concentrations in the atmosphere are rising mostly as a result of microbial activity in nitrogen (N)-rich soils linked to agriculture and fertilizing activities.
The two main sources of NO in the atmosphere are anthropogenic emissions (from the burning of fossil fuels) and biogenic emissions from soils. Nitrogen oxide is produced fast from NO in the troposphere (NO2).
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hydroxyl may react with NO and NO2 (referred to as NOx), producing organic nitrates and nitric acid, respectively.
They gain access to ecosystems by atmospheric deposition, which is affected by acidity or N enrichment and has an effect on the nitrogen cycle.
5. NO Sources and Chemical Reactions in Plants
The reductive and oxidative routes have been described as the two main processes for NO generation in plants.
In the reductive pathway, NR converts nitrite to NO in the presence of anoxia, acidic pH, or elevated nitrite levels.
Several activities, including stomatal closure, root development, germination, and immunological responses, have been linked to NR-dependent NO production.
Xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase are just a few of the molybdenum enzymes that can reduce nitrite in plants.
In animals, nitrite can also be reduced via the electron transport system in mitochondria.
Through the oxidation of organic substances such as polyamines, hydroxylamine, and arginine, the oxidative route generates NO.
Animals’ NOS enzymes catalyze the conversion of arginine to citrulline and NO. Numerous investigations were conducted to identify plant NOS and the arginine-dependent NO production in plants.
After NOS was discovered in the green alga Ostreococcus Tauri, plant genomes underwent a high-throughput bioinformatic study.
This work demonstrates that NOS homologs were only found in a small number of photosynthetic microorganisms, such as algae and diatoms, out of the over 1,000 genomes of higher plants examined.
In conclusion, higher plants do produce NO that is dependent on arginine, but the specific enzyme or enzymes responsible for the oxidative processes are still unknown.
6. Ozone (O3)
Ozone (O3) is primarily present in the stratosphere, while some are produced in the troposphere as well.
The ozone layer and stratospheric ozone are naturally created by chemical reactions between oxygen (O2) and solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
One O2 molecule is split by solar UV light into two oxygen atoms (2 O). The result is an (O3) molecule, which is created when each of these extremely reactive atoms joins with O2.
The (O3) layer absorbs about 99% of the Sun’s medium-frequency UV radiation, which has a wavelength between 200 and 315 nm. Otherwise, they might harm life forms that are exposed close to the Earth’s surface.
The majority of the tropospheric O3 is produced by NOx, CO, and VOCs reacting with sunshine. However, it was noted that in cities, NOx might scavenge O3.
Light, season, temperature, and VOC concentration all have an impact on this dual NOx and O3 interaction.
Additionally, in the presence of significant NOx, the oxidation of CH4 by OH in the troposphere results in the formation of formaldehyde (CH2O), CO, and O3.
O3 in the troposphere is bad for both plants and animals (including humans). O3 has a variety of effects on plants. The cells known as stomata, which are primarily found on the underside of plant leaves, allow CO2 and water to permeate into the tissue.
Plants that are exposed to high levels of O3 close their stomata, which slows down photosynthesis and limits plant development. Strong oxidative stress may also be induced by O3, harming plant cells.
7. Fluorinated Gas
Synthetic, potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride are released through a variety of domestic, commercial, and industrial applications and operations.
Sometimes, fluorinated gases—particularly hydrofluorocarbons—are utilized in place of stratospheric ozone-depleting compounds (e.g., chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and halons).
Compared to other greenhouse gases, fluorinated gases are normally emitted in smaller amounts, yet they are powerful greenhouse gases.
They are sometimes referred to as high-GWP gases because, for a given amount of mass, they trap significantly more heat than gases with lower global warming potentials (GWPs) like CO2 which typically range from thousands to tens of thousands.
Because each greenhouse gas absorbs energy differently and has a distinct “lifetime,” or amount of time spent in the atmosphere, each one has a different capacity to absorb heat from the atmosphere.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, hundreds of molecules of carbon dioxide would be required to match the warming effect of a single molecule of sulfur hexafluoride, the most potent greenhouse gas, in terms of heat absorption (IPCC).
Effects of Greenhouse Gases on the Environment – FAQs
How do greenhouse gases impact global warming?
Because they retain heat that would otherwise escape from the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are to blame for global warming. These gases, as opposed to oxygen and nitrogen, can absorb radiation and retain heat. The Earth is kept at a temperature where life can exist because of greenhouse gases.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
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It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.