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"What are greenhouse gases?"
|By: LeRoy French
21 November 2008
We have all heard or seen at one time or another the term
'Greenhouse Gases'. lam sure there are many of you that would like
to know exactly what this term means. The problem of course is that
it sounds very technical and would be difficult for most people to
understand. To some extent this is true, but I will try and put the
explanantion in lay terms that we all can understand. Its important to
know the meaning because it has a direct relationship on our planets
OK, here we go! Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called
greenhouse gases. This is what makes our earth warm. Known as the
greenhouse effect. Without it we would not be able to live. If the
effect becomes to strong because more gases are being released, it
could cause problems for most living things.
Greenhouse gases are produced by a natural process and also by
human activity. The main greenhouse gases that enter the
atmosphere because of human activity are; carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxide, and flourinated gases.
CARBON DIOXIDE (C02) is released into the atmosphere through
the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Also the
burning of trees and wood products to name a few.
METHANE (CH4) comes from the transport and production of coal,
oil, livestock and agriculture practices. Its also released from decay in
organic waste found in landfills.
NITROUS OXIDE (N20) is emitted by all of the above.
FLUORINATED GASES are a synthetic variety of gases emitted
from various industrial activities.
Now what does all this mean? Its called Global Warming! You've
heard me mention this before. What most people don't know is that
WATER VAPOR is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the
atmosphere. As the temperature of the atmosphere rises, more
water is evaporated from rivers, oceans etc. thus increasing the water
vapor in the atmosphere. As the atmosphere becomes warmer it is
capable of holding more water.
Now the big thing here is, now that we know this, what can the normal
human being do to help reduce some of these emissions.
The largest carbon footprint is transportation.
- One of the things that impacts our planet directly is transportation. If during the course of a week you walked, biked or used the local bus system it would make a difference. What about a carpool?
- In the home. Turn the lights off when you go out. Use energy efficient bulbs and appliances.
- Turn the tap off when you are brushing your teeth. Collect rainwater for use in the garden.
- Here's something of interest. Some clothes are sprayed with noxious chemicals. Cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop on our planet. Organic cotton and other alternates are becoming increasingly popular.
- Paper bags have just as high an environmental footprint as plastic bags when it comes to manufacturing and disposal. Here in St. Maarten we see plastic bags in all the stores. We need to stop this practice. It's not a big deal to bring your own bag with you. There are many bags out there that can be re-used over and over again.
- Buy in bulk means less trips to the store! (you also save money)
I'm not suggesting you change your whole life around, just
implement some of the above mentioned ideas. Remember a few
weeks ago I mentioned the Polar Bear was in trouble. Ice is melting.
Now you have an idea why this is happening.