All About Greenhouse Gases

All About Greenhouse Gases

`While we mentioned greenhouse gases in our first Grove Gossip blog, it’s so important that we continue to spread the word and help people understand what they are, we decided to focus on them once more. Greenhouse gases are a major cause of climate change and, as demonstrated in the diagram above, have been the main culprit of our increasingly warming atmosphere. This has devastating effects on our planet.

Since the industrial revolution statistics have proven that our planet has been warming at accelerating rates, and more rapidly since the 1950s. The industrial revolution allowed for mass manufacturing and an explosion in the use of fossil fuels, which has been exacerbated by economic growth and prosperity. Of course, population increases puts yet more pressure on the need for food, manufacturing, and travel. These factors all contribute to the rapid release of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – see the chart below which demonstrates the dramatic growth in CO2 levels. It is important to keep in mind that these gasses need to exist at a natural level in our atmosphere so that we do not become a frozen tundra, however, at the levels created by human activity we are literally “cooking our planet”!

In our recent Grove Carbon survey, we asked participants if they had ever heard of greenhouse gas emissions and, although the majority had, there was one respondent who skipped the question and one that responded “no”. Although this is a small number, this further indicates the need for building greater awareness, as most people are unaware everyday tasks produce greenhouse gases and, therefore, create what is known as a carbon footprint.

There was some misconception about what greenhouse gases are in answers to specific questions. Most indicated that greenhouse gases are gases in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat, and that a high level of greenhouse gases is harmful. While this is correct, things got a little fuzzy when we asked participants about how these gases are produced:

  • 18% of survey takers are under the impression that greenhouse gases are only produced by humans.
  • 4% answered that greenhouse gases are only produced by the Earth and not humans.

Neither answer is wholly correct as both are true; greenhouse gases do naturally occur and at a natural level they are able to ‘cycle’ through the atmosphere and keep us warm. As we stated before, once we started to burn more fossil fuels the increases in human-made greenhouse gas emissions became harmful to our climate and planet.

One quarter of interviewees responded that they believe all greenhouse gases should be mitigated, however, we need some to keep us from an ice-age! We need to put a cap (and very quickly) on how many gases we emit, but not eliminate them entirely. A combined reduction of greenhouse gases and more citizens offsetting their unavoidable carbon footprint would do wonders for the planet, Ask us how!

So, where are these greenhouse gases coming from? Respondents were mostly unaware of the main contributors of greenhouse gases. The top three answers were:

 

  1. Deforestation – 78%
  2. Gas and Fuel in vehicles -72%
  3. Manufacturing – 54%

You can see what people thought were the other causes of increased greenhouse gases in the chart below:

While these popular answers are all correct to some extent, according to “Our World in Data” the number one contributor is energy use accounting for 73.2% of emissions. Manufacturing falls under this category and can be seen as Energy Use in Industry in the chart pictured below, and accounts for 24.2% of overall emissions. Road Transport, or gas and fuel, also falls under the category of ‘Energy’ and accounts for 11.9% of emissions. Agriculture and land use are the second largest contributor with 18.4% of emissions. However, deforestation, in its own right, only accounts for 2.2% (as this means they are no longer trapping CO2). Trees and rainforests are natural absorbers of greenhouse gases so cutting them down causes more of these gasses to be emitted rather than forests sequestering them. Contrary to what most people believe, air travel only accounts for 1.9% of the total.

 

Perhaps the most concerning is that we have 3% of our panel claiming that it’s all naturally occurring and none of it is human made! More next time!

References:

Ritchie, H. (n.d.). Sector by sector: where do global greenhouse gas emissions come from? Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/ghg-emissions-by-sector.

 

 

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