Greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere trap warmth from the sun and make life possible. Without them, temperatures at the surface of the earth would be about 30°C colder.
The major greenhouse gases include:
Other greenhouse gases at lower concentrations include:
As a result of industrial and other activities, human society is now emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in such quantities that the composition and dynamics of the atmosphere are changing.
Global increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration are caused primarily by fossil fuel use and land-use change, while increases in methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture. This increased concentration of gases traps more of the earth’s warmth than normal, leading to a gradual warming of the atmosphere.
To measure New Zealand’s contribution to global climate change, the following are reported:
Last updated: 26 April 2011