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Background

Behind the battle to address global warming and climate change lies the increase in
greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. By definition a greenhouse gas is any
gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared
radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere. By increasing the
heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse
effect, which ultimately leads to global warming.
Global warming isn't a new study in science. The basics of the phenomenon were
worked out by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. His paper, published in the Philosophical
Magazine and Journal of Science, was the first to quantify the contribution of carbon
dioxide to the greenhouse effect.
The Sun showers Earth with enormous amounts of radiation, which strike Earth's
atmosphere in the form of visible light, plus ultraviolet (UV), infrared (IR) and other
types of radiation that are invisible to the human eye.
About 30 percent of the Suns radiation striking the Earth is reflected back out to
space by clouds, ice and other reflective surfaces. The remaining 70 percent is
absorbed by the oceans, the land and the atmosphere, according to NASA.
As they absorb radiation and heat up, the oceans, land and atmosphere release
heat in the form of IR thermal radiation, which passes out of the atmosphere into
space. The balance between incoming and out-going radiation keeps Earth's overall
average temperature at about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius),
according to NASA.

This exchange of incoming and outgoing radiation that warms Earth is often referred
to as the "greenhouse effect" because a greenhouse works in much the same way.
Incoming UV radiation easily passes through the glass walls of a greenhouse and is
absorbed by the plants and hard surfaces inside. Weaker IR radiation, however, has
difficulty passing out through the glass walls and is trapped inside, warming the
greenhouse.

Green House Gases


The gases in the atmosphere that absorb radiation are known as "greenhouse gases"
(sometimes abbreviated as GHG) because they are largely responsible for the greenhouse
effect. The greenhouse effect, in turn, is one of the leading causes of global warming. The
most significant greenhouse gases are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane
(CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
While oxygen (O2) is the second most abundant gas in our atmosphere, O2 does not absorb
thermal infrared radiation.
While some say that global warming is a natural process and that there have always been
greenhouse gasses, the amount of gasses in the atmosphere has skyrocketed in recent
history. The Industrial Revolution had a big part to play in the amount of atmospheric CO2
being released. Before, CO2 fluctuated between about 180 ppm during ice ages and 280
ppm during interglacial warm periods. Since the Industrial Revolution, though, the amount
of CO2 has dramatically increased to 100 times faster than the increase when the last ice age
ended, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Fluorinated gases - that is, gases to which the element fluorine was added including
hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride, are created during industrial
processes and are also considered greenhouse gases. Though they are present in very small
concentrations, they trap heat very effectively, making them high "global-warming
potential" (GWP) gases.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), once used as refrigerants and aerosol propellants until they
were phased out by international agreement, are also greenhouse gases.
Three factors affect the degree to which any greenhouse gas will influence global warming:

Its abundance in the atmosphere


How long it stays in the atmosphere
Its global-warming potential

Carbon dioxide has a significant impact on global warming partly because of its abundance
in the atmosphere. According to the EPA, in 2012, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled
6,526 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, which equaled 82 percent of all
human caused greenhouse gasses. Additionally, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for thousands
of years.
However, methane is about 21 times more efficient at absorbing radiation than CO2, giving
it a high GWP rating, even though it stays in the atmosphere only about 10 years, according
to the EPA.
Some greenhouse gases, like methane, are produced through agricultural practices including
livestock manure management. Others, like CO2, largely result from natural processes like
respiration and from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. The production of

electricity is the source of 70 percent of the United States' sulfur dioxide emissions, 13
percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, and 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, according
to the EPA.
The second cause of CO2 release is deforestation, according to research published by Duke
University. When trees are killed to produce goods or heat, they release the carbon that is
normally stored for photosynthesis. This process releases nearly a billion tons of carbon into
the atmosphere per year, according to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment.
Worldwide, the output of greenhouse gases is a source of grave concern: From the time the
Industrial Revolution began to the year 2009, atmospheric CO2 levels have increased almost
38 percent and methane levels have increased a whopping 148 percent, according to NASA,
and most of that increase has been in the past 50 years. Because of global warming, 2014
was the warmest year on record and 10 of the hottest years have all come after 1998.
If these trends continue, scientists, government officials and a growing number of citizens
fear that the worst effects of global warming extreme weather, rising sea levels, plant and
animal extinctions, ocean acidification, major shifts in climate and unprecedented social
upheaval will be inevitable. In answer to the problems caused by global warming by
greenhouse gasses, the government created a climate action plan in 2013.
Increasing emissions of greenhouse gases due to human activities worldwide have led to a
substantial increase in atmospheric concentrations of long-lived and other greenhouse gases.
Every country around the world emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, meaning the
root cause of climate change is truly global in scope. Some countries produce far more
greenhouse gases than others, and several factorssuch as economic activity, population,

income level, land use, and climatic conditionscan influence a countrys emissions levels.
Tracking greenhouse gas emissions worldwide provides a global context for understanding
the United States and other nations roles in climate change.

Recent Trends in U.S.


Emissions and Sinks

Greenhouse

Gas

As per Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks April 2015 report, in 2013,
total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were 6,673.0 MMT or million metric tons CO2
equivalent. Total U.S. emissions have increased by 5.9 percent from 1990 to 2013, and
emissions increased from 2012 to 2013 by 2.0 percent (127.9 MMT CO2 Eq.). The increase
from 2012 to 2013 was due to an increase in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to
generate electricity due to an increase in coal consumption, with decreased natural gas
consumption. Additionally, cold winter conditions lead to an increase in fuels for the
residential and commercial sectors for heating. In 2013 there also was an increase in
industrial production across multiple sectors resulting in increases in industrial sector
emissions. Lastly, transportation emissions increased as a result of a small increase in
vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and fuel use across on-road transportation modes. Since 1990,
U.S. emissions have increased at an average annual rate of 0.3 percent. Figure 2-1 through
Figure 2-3 illustrate the overall trend in total U.S. emissions by gas, annual changes, and
absolute changes since 1990.
Figure 2-1: U.S Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Gas

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks April 2015 report

Figure 2-2: Annual Percent Change in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks April 2015 report

Figure 2-3: Cumulative Change in Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Relative to 1990

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks April 2015 report

Figure 2-4 illustrates the relative contribution of the direct greenhouse gases to total U.S.
emissions in 2013. The primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities in the United
States was CO2, representing approximately 82.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
The largest source of CO2, and of overall greenhouse gas emissions, was fossil fuel
combustion. CH4 emissions, which have decreased by 14.6 percent since 1990, resulted
primarily from enteric fermentation associated with domestic livestock, natural gas systems,
and decomposition of wastes in landfills. Agricultural soil management, manure
management, mobile source fuel combustion and stationary fuel combustion were the major
sources of N2O emissions. Ozone depleting substance substitute emissions and emissions of
HFC-23 during the production of HCFC-22 were the primary contributors to aggregate HFC
emissions. PFC emissions resulted as a byproduct of primary aluminum production and
from semiconductor manufacturing, while electrical transmission and distribution systems
accounted for most SF6 emissions.
Figure ES-4: 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Gas (Percentages based
on MMT CO2 Eq.)

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks April 2015 report

Overall, from 1990 to 2013, total emissions of CO2 increased by 381.5 MMT CO2 Eq. (7.4
percent), while total emissions of CH4 decreased by 109.2 MMT CO2 Eq. (14.6 percent),
and total emissions of N2O increased 25.3 MMT CO2 Eq. (7.7 percent). During the same
period, aggregate weighted emissions of HFCs, PFCs, SF6, and NF3 rose by 74.3 MMT
CO2 Eq. (72.9 percent). Despite being emitted in smaller quantities relative to the other
principal greenhouse gases, emissions of HFCs, PFCs, SF6, and NF3 are significant because
many of them have extremely high GWPs and, in the cases of PFCs SF6, and NF3, long
atmospheric lifetimes. Conversely, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were partly offset by
Carbon sequestration in managed forests, trees in urban areas, agricultural soils, and
landfilled yard trimmings. These were estimated to offset 13.2 percent of total emissions in
2013.
As the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide (CO2) from
fossil fuel combustion has accounted for approximately 77 percent of global warming
potential (GWP) weighted emissions for the entire time series since 1990, from 75 percent
of total GWP-weighted emissions in 1990 to 77 percent in 2013. Emissions from this source
category grew by 8.8 percent (417.0 MMT CO2 Eq.) from 1990 to 2013 and were
responsible for most of the increase in national emissions during this period. From 2012 to
2013, these emissions increased by 2.6 percent (131.7 MMT CO2 Eq.). Historically,

changes in emissions from fossil fuel combustion have been the dominant factor affecting
U.S. emission trends.
Changes in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are influenced by many long-term
and short-term factors, including population and economic growth, energy price
fluctuations, technological changes, and seasonal temperatures. On an annual basis, the
overall consumption of fossil fuels in the United States fluctuates primarily in response to
changes in general economic conditions, energy prices, weather, and the availability of nonfossil alternatives. For example, in a year with increased consumption of goods and services,
low fuel prices, severe summer and winter weather conditions, nuclear plant closures, and
lower precipitation feeding hydroelectric dams, there would likely be proportionally greater
fossil fuel consumption than in a year with poor economic performance, high fuel prices,
mild temperatures, and increased output from nuclear and hydroelectric plants.
In the longer-term, energy consumption patterns respond to changes that affect the scale of
consumption (e.g., population, number of cars, and size of houses), the efficiency with
which energy is used in equipment (e.g., cars, power plants, steel mills, and light bulbs) and
behavioral choices (e.g., walking, bicycling, or telecommuting to work instead of driving).
Energy-related CO2 emissions also depend on the type of fuel or energy consumed and its
carbon (C) intensity. Producing a unit of heat or electricity using natural gas instead of coal,
for example, can reduce the CO2 emissions because of the lower C content of natural gas.

Possible Measure at individual level that can reduce Global


Warming.

Global warming is considered as real and growing threat for human beings and climate by
most of the scientists. Though the government is doing its own contribution, maximum
reduction in global warming can be achieved only when each individual participate in it.
Sure, as an individual, one can do many things in his/her home for reducing global warming.
In this connection first you need to focus the areas, which are the biggest source of global
warming. The first thing is definitely gasses that come from home cooling, electricity and
heating appliances, if people pays a little attention in their usage , they will be playing big
role in reducing global warming. Following are few measure one can take at individual
level.
1. Use Fluorescent Light Bulbs: One should immediately change incandescent light
bulbs and use fluorescent light bulbs, because these fluorescent bulbs consume only
25 % energy comparable incandescent bulbs.
2. Switch off Electric Appliances: When electric appliances are not in use, then plug
them off, because they use some energy even in off position.
3. Change Monitor with LCD: Try to get LCD instead of a monitor, because LCD
takes about 56 percent energy than your monitor. Always keep computer screen
status off, when not in use.
4. Dont Leave Fridges door open for a Long Time: Opening Fridges door for a
long time uses more energy, hence be quick in closing the door.
5. Uses of Solar Energy: Using solar energy instead of conventional energy save
electricity, money and environment from global warming.
6. Use Electric or Hybrid Car: You consider purchasing a hybrid or electric car, in
place of gasoline car. Gasoline car covers 20 to 30 miles per gallon, whereas hybrid
or eclectic gives you 130 to 140 miles per gallon.
7. Plant Trees At Home: Trees absorb carbon dioxide and gives oxygen. So planting
trees helps in reducing carbon dioxide levels.

8. Public Transportation: Using public transportation helps in reducing individual


fuel consumption and vehicular emissions into atmosphere.
9. Save Clean Water: One should not waste clean water, because we need more
energy for the processing of clean water.
10. Avoid Lighting at Day Time: The sun provides you light from dawn to dusk; if you
design your home with good planning you can save energy.
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