Basic “pollutants” of the environment: greenhouse gases. Part 1

In the section "Human, Society & Nature ”we begin to get acquainted with the main “pollutants” that have an impact on the environment. It will be about greenhouse gases.

The presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes some of the heat emitted by the Earth’s surface to remain in the surface air layers. The higher the concentration of greenhouse gases, the more the planet's surface overheats. For many millions of years, the content of gases causing the greenhouse effect has been established at a value that allows maintaining thermal equilibrium.

         Before mankind began the active development of industry, the main sources of greenhouse gases were: evaporation from the surface of the oceans, volcanic activity and forest fires.

With the beginning of the industrial era, greenhouse gases began to enter the atmosphere when burning fossil fuels (carbon dioxide), when growing rice and oil (methane), due to refrigerant leaks and the use of aerosols (fluorocarbons), rocket launches (nitrogen oxides), automobile engines (ozone). In addition, human industrial activity has reduced the area occupied by forests, the main natural carbon dioxide sinks.

         The following compounds are included in the list of greenhouse gases:

  • Water vapor is the most common greenhouse gas. There is no evidence of an increase in its concentration in the atmosphere.
  • Carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide) (CO2) is a major source of climate change, which may account for about 64% of global warming.

 

The main sources of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are:

 

  • production, transportation, processing and consumption of fossil fuels (86%);
  • deforestation and other biomass burning (12%);
  • sources of heat (2%), such as cement production and the oxidation of carbon monoxide.

 

         Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the third largest greenhouse gas of the Kyoto Protocol. It accounts for about 6% of global warming. It is distinguished in the production and use of mineral fertilizers, in the chemical industry and  in agriculture etc.

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) are hydrocarbon compounds in which fluorine partially replaces carbon. The main sources of emissions of these gases are the production of aluminum, electronics and solvents.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are hydrocarbon compounds in which halogens partially replace hydrogen.

Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is a greenhouse gas used as an insulating material in the electric power industry. Emissions occur during its production and use. It remains extremely long in the atmosphere and is an active absorber of infrared radiation. Therefore, this compound, even with relatively low emissions, has the potential to influence the climate for a long time to come.