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The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases

As PopSci.com So Eloquently Put It:

earth-simulatorDespite all the talk about carbon capture, carbon footprints and carbon trading, carbon dioxide only causes nine to 26% of the greenhouse effect. That means that the majority of warming results from gases with a much lower media profile than the paparazzi-trailed starlet of global warming, CO2. In honor of last weeks’ report in the Journal of Geophysical Research, which identified a brand new greenhouse gas, we count down the gases that bring us bikini weather in Antarctica and beachfront property in Montana.

10. Sulfuryl Fluoride: The new kid on the block, MIT scientists identified this chemical as a greenhouse gas on March 11th, 2009. Used as a fumigant, Dow Chemicals produces sulfuryl fluoride to kill termites. The chemical, which is highly inert, has a lifetime of up to 40 years, and traps 4,800 times more heat per molecule than CO2. The chemical only exists in 1.5 parts per trillion in the atmosphere, but according to the recent Journal of Geophysical Research, that number is going up by 5 percent a year.

9. Trichlorofluoromethane:
This refrigerant has the dubious honor of contributing to warming on two fronts. Not only does trichlorof luoromethane retain heat 4,600 times better than carbon dioxide, but it also depletes the ozone layer faster than any other refrigerant. The high ozone-depletion rate results from trichlorofluoromethane’s tendency to shed chlorine molecules when struck with ultraviolet light. Chlorine, of course, is also a deadly toxin.

8. Sulfur Hexafluoride: Primarily used in the electronics industry as an insulator, this inert gas moonlights as a tracer for experiments around the wind dispersal of toxic gases during terrorist attacks. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) deemed sulfur hexafluoride the world’s most powerful greenhouse gas, with the chemical weighing in at a stout 22,200 times more heat trapping than CO2.

7. Hexafluoroethane: A chemical used in the creation of semiconductors, hexafluoroethane is the Methuselah of greenhouse gases. While some chemicals linger in the atmosphere for mere decades, hexafluoroethane sticks around for 10,000 years. That longevity, combined with heat retention 9,200 times greater than carbon dioxide, makes hexafluoroethane a chemical the IPCC keeps a close eye on.

6. Trifluoromethane:
Trifluoromethane, also called fluoroform, serves two purposes, finding use in the etching of silicon computer chips and as a fire suppressant. By far the most abundant of the hydrofluorocarbons, trifluoromethane has an atmospheric lifetime of 260 years and traps 11,700 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.

5. Ozone: Usually when ozone comes up in the climate debate, the talk centers on a general lack of it. In fact, ozone is also a potent greenhouse gas. But because ozone isn’t equally distributed around the globe, we have simultaneously too much of it (man-made ozone in the lowest part of the atmosphere traps heat and warms the planet), and too little of it (fluorocarbons deplete ozone in the upper atmosphere responsible for shielding the ice caps from solar radiation).

4. Nitrous Oxide:
By far the most fast and furious of the greenhouse gases, nitrous finds uses in rocket fuel, making cars more awesome, and as a recreational drug. However, those indulging in huffing and street ghgas21racing should be aware that laughing gas ranks as the fourth leading cause of the greenhouse effect.

3. Methane:
The main component of natural gas and cow farts, methane comes in as the number three worst offending greenhouse gas. The IPCC freely admits that it does not fully understand the methane cycle, and identifies methane release as coming from natural sources like swamps and termites, and from man-made sources like landfills and cow farms.

2. Carbon Dioxide:
Despite getting all the press, carbon dioxide only ranks as the second largest contributor to global warming. Let’s reiterate that CO2 is a by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels as well as cellular respiration, and carbon dioxide generated by ghgas1-2human industry contributes to the warming of the planet.


1. Water Vapor:
Water? Water?! Water! Yes, according to the IPCC, steam accounts for 36-70 percent of the greenhouse effect. Fog, haze and clouds are all water vapor, and steam is the other main byproduct of the combustion of fossil fuels. Worse still, warming causes a positive feedback loop as higher temperatures result in more water vapor, which results in higher temperatures, and so on and so on. Now the next time someone asks you about your carbon footprint, you can ask them about their steam footprint, and see if that patchouli-scented hippie knows the main cause behind the greenhouse effect.

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28 Responses to “The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases”

  1. whamx.com Says:

    The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases | Forced Green…

    Despite all the talk about carbon capture, carbon footprints and carbon trading, carbon dioxide only causes nine to 26% of the greenhouse effect….

  2. The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases | The Gaia Resource Says:

    [...] Continue here: The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases [...]

  3. Peter Simmons Says:

    Just had to have a go at hippies! Considering hippies were the first to be concerned about climate change as well as a host of other environmental issues and brought it all out into the open and made people think what they were doing to the planet, as well as forming the bedrock of the environmental movement, this is a bit much on a site claiming to be green.

    Still, no sneer about sandals and muesli, so we have to be grateful for small mercies I guess. Eloquently isn’t the word I’d use, and since all this information has been known for ages, I wonder at their motive for restating it, perhaps to claim we don’t need to cut down on carbon ‘cos there’s far worse out there’? An excuse for carrying on driving?

    Checked out the source site and it’s all very trivial, shallow treatment of all their stories. Pop science says it all.

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Peter … I am considered a proud member of those hippies hence my environmental roots. If we cannot laugh at ourselves, who can we. The word elegantly was used in jest cause how can you equate that word with an article that so highlights cow farts.

    This information has been known for ages BY SOME but not by all. That is what this green site, yes I said green site, is all about, getting information to everybody that comes by.

    Come back again!

  5. Peter Simmons Says:

    Oh I pop by quite often! Yes I know what you say, it’s the source site I was having a go at, and I’m afraid the old hippy jibe is much too common still to ignore, even if self inflicted. There are still many who just won’t admit we were right all along, it kinda sticks in their craw. I think I’ll puty my sandals on now, seems too hot for socks… ;-)

  6. Peter Simmons Says:

    Oh I pop by quite often! Yes I know what you say, it’s the source site I was having a go at, and I’m afraid the old hippy jibe is much too common still to ignore, even if self inflicted. There are still many who just won’t admit we were right all along, it kinda sticks in their craw. I think I’ll put my sandals on now, seems too hot for socks… ;-)

  7. Matt Says:

    Thank you for the information. I think carbon dioxide is rightfully considered a dangerous greenhouse gas because it is so common and easy to reduce (as you know greenery will absorb human-made CO2). At the same time like you mention it isn’t the worst greenhouse gas. I noticed you listed Nitrous Oxide as number four. You definitely seem to know your stuff. In December of 2007, ScienceDaily reported that Nitrous Oxide is 300 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Could this possibly be the case?

    Here is the original source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071210103955.htm

    Take Care,
    Matt

    Matts last blog post..Gareth Oliver Deserved Another Look

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  9. Linda Says:

    Hi Peter … Right on, Bro! I often write posts to Ina Gadda Divida! :)

  10. Linda Says:

    Hi Matt … Thank you! Nitrous Oxide has been real quiet in the line up for a while. But it raced right up to almost the pole position! Its not a checkered flag for me.

  11. Shelly Says:

    Interesting list! Carbon dioxide is still the main culprit though, since we can’t do anything about water vapor. In fact the other GHGs lead to more water vapor. Here’s another good chart.
    http://tinyurl.com/mb9qw8

    Shellys last blog post..The Cap and Trade Bill, Interpreted by CCAN

  12. Linda Says:

    Hi Shelly … Thank you for the additional chart. Carbon dioxide certainly a bad one.

  13. cady Says:

    wow, i had no idea that water vapor was part of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect. this post was interesting to me because i wasn’t aware of all the gases that cause it.

    cadys last blog post..13 Weeks

  14. Maureen Says:

    Many of these I had not heard of before…but I have read quite a bit about Methane. The media completely plays down factory farming as one of the biggest contributors of global warming. This is one that could easily be decreased-

    Maureens last blog post..Adam Lambert….and Home Business: Commonalities?

  15. Linda Says:

    Hi cady …. yep! water vapor is heavy. Considering the earth is covered in water, you will always have the vapors!

    Hi Maureen … You bet! The media needs to get back to its roots as well.

  16. wilson Says:

    Linda, I haven’t hear about the latter two gases in my life, until today! The even shocking thing is the water vapor fact, as I didn’t still don’t believe it would cause the greenhouse effect.

    wilsons last blog post..Low Sugar Diet Can Really Prevent Diabetes?

  17. Linda Says:

    Hi Wilson … Yep, it does. It really comes from the steam from industries. Steam also retains heat.

  18. Lynn Says:

    Very interesting list. I had heard about methane being a huge contributor but most on the list is new to me. It’s definitely something I want to read more about.

    Lynns last blog post..My New Favorite Kitchen Knife

  19. Linda Says:

    Hi Lynn … The most famous on the list are the methane and carbon dioxide. But the rest are very real.

  20. Karen Says:

    I hope that by each of us doing our part, we can make a difference.

  21. Barbara Says:

    An excellent post. You covered it well…almost like going back to school! It’s a lot more fun to visit here at Forced Green, than going to school. I think we can learn more too! :)

    Barbaras last blog post..Autism In The News

  22. Sen and Qi Says:

    It just goes to show when we are given a half truth how much we are sleeping unless we forage and do our homework. Thanks for the list Linda. I am still getting over this ruddy flu lol but getting a nice list together with instructions for you and hopefully you will have it all by morning. Huggles.

    Sen and Qis last blog post..Green computer tips and energy efficiency.

  23. Linda Says:

    Hi Karen … we are little by little!

    Hi Barbara … That is the idea, my friend! Thank you!

    Hi Qi … Huggies to you! I hope the flu is on the downside for ya (anotherwords, you can breathe!), and I await your email! :)

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  26. Twitter Trackbacks for The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases | Forced Green [forcedgreen.com] on Topsy.com Says:

    [...] The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases | Forced Green http://www.forcedgreen.com/2009/05/the-top-ten-greenhouse-gases – view page – cached Despite all the talk about carbon capture, carbon footprints and carbon trading, carbon dioxide only causes nine to 26% of the greenhouse effect., Despite all the talk about carbon capture, carbon footprints and carbon trading, carbon dioxide only causes nine to 26% of the greenhouse effect. — From the page [...]

  27. Herman Says:

    I do not know that water vapor is part of the gases that cause greenhouse effect. This post was interesting to me because I was not aware of all the gases that cause it.
    .-= Herman´s last blog ..Car Images =-.

  28. Linda Says:

    Hi Herman … Thanks for coming by and glad we could help you get a better understanding of the greenhouse effect.

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