From the Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conversion, “Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are a set of gases that accumulate in the lower layer of the atmosphere, the troposphere, and absorb infrared radiation, which contributes to increasing the average temperature of the Earth’s surface”.
It simply refers to gases with the ability to store and release heat (infrared radiation). The earth’s surface initially absorbs heat from the sun during the day and then cools it during the night by releasing the heat back into the atmosphere. This is where greenhouse gases come into play; they naturally function by absorbing heat, keeping the earth’s surface warm at night, without which temperatures would plummet as low as -18 C. this process is known as the greenhouse gas effect.
These gases include both natural and man-made gasses like Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), water vapor, and a few industrial gases like Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
Rising heat: As emissions from human activity grow, temperatures will rise as well. This implies that living will be challenging on earth, with more diseases emerging, dehydration, poor food yields, desertification, species migration, etc.
Rising sea levels: the melting of glaciers has a dramatic effect on the planet. Many cities and islands have already started to flood, these melting releases large amounts of methane and opens the door for fossil diseases and acidification of water bodies. Agricultural operations have also been impacted by this.
Depletion of Ozone Layer: The earth’s surface is exposed to dangerous UV radiation as a result of ozone layer loss, which might cause skin cancer and significantly alter the climate.
Air pollution: In most cases, greenhouse gases like nitrogen and sulfur oxides build up to create smog. These are given off by the combustion of fossil fuels, car emissions, industrial processes, and other human activities.
The main greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of years after being emitted, and their warming effects on the climate last for a very long time. A few of which is mentioned below:
Carbon dioxide – 100-1000’s of years
Methane – 12 years
Nitrous oxide – 109 years
Fluorinated gases – Few weeks to thousands of years.
To monitor, account for, report, and control GHG emissions across the value chain from both commercial and public operations, there is a global standard known as the GHG protocol or greenhouse gas protocol. This was developed by the World Resource Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).