Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

Greenhouse gases are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of thermal infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface, the atmosphere itself, and by clouds. This property causes the greenhouse effect.

  • Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Moreover, there are a number of entirely human-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as the halocarbons and other chlorine and bromine containing substances, dealt with under the Montreal Protocol.
  • Beside CO2, N2O and CH4, the Kyoto Protocol deals with the greenhouse gases sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).

Forcing GHGs

  • The most dominant greenhouse gas overall is water vapor, but it has a very short atmospheric lifetime (about 10 days) and is very nearly in a dynamic equilibrium in the atmosphere, so it is not a forcing gas in the context of global warming.
  • Scientists have identified carbon dioxide as the dominant greenhouse gas forcing. Methane and nitrous oxide are also major forcing contributors to the greenhouse effect.

GHG by sectors

Maximum anthropogenic GHG emission is by Power Stations (over 21%) as shown in the following chart. It is followed by the Industrial Processes (around 17%).