Wisconsin Climate Change
Greenhouse Gases and Particles
Greenhouse gases and particles trap heat around Earth. They include both natural and human produced substances that come from a wide variety of sources.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of other chemical reactions (e.g. manufacture of cement). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, or sequestered, when it is absorbed by plants and the oceans.
- Methane (CH4)
- Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices and the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
- Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.
- Ozone (O3)
- Ground level (trophospheric) ozone acts as a pollutant and greenhouse gas. It is formed from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds reacting in the presence of sunlight. Volatile organic compounds [exit DNR] are released from a wide variety of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and glues. Naturally occurring ozone in the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) is beneficial because it blocks harmful ultraviolet light from reaching Earth’s surface.
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- CFCs were used for a variety of purposes including refrigerants, aerosol-spray propellants, and solvents. They have been almost entirely phased out because they thin Earth’s protective layer of stratospheric ozone. HFCs were developed to replace CFCs since they do not cause thinning of the ozone layer. Unfortunatley, some HFCs are very powerful greenhouse gases.
- Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
- Sulfur hexaflouride serves a variety of purposes in the electrical, medical, and construction industries.
- Nitrogen triflouride (NF3)
- High technology manufacturing uses nitrogen triflouride in products like flat screen LCD televisions, thin-film solar photovoltaics, and computer chips.
- Black carbon (BC)
- Incomplete burning of fossil fuels and biofuels produces black carbon, a type of particle that contributes to global warming by absorbing heat and limiting the reflection of light.