Climate Science Essentials

Examining Greenhouse Gasses

Why focus on carbon dioxide?

The NASA website lists several gases that contribute to climate change. Some gas molecules, like methane and nitrous oxide, have an especially strong warming effect. We tend to focus most on carbon dioxide, however, because the amount of carbon dioxide we have released into the atmosphere is far greater than the amounts of the other gases we have released. So, it has the most total effect on warming just because there is so much more of it than there used to be.

Why is methane also important?

We have not been releasing quite as much methane as carbon dioxide. Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about methane, however. We have long recognized that flooded rice fields and digesting cows produce substantial amounts of methane. However, arctic and sub-arctic ponds and lakes also produce a lot of methane. As they melt with warming temperatures, scientists fear the amount of methane they will release will greatly accelerate climate change.


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