Greenhouse Gases

A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth's surface would be about −18 °C, rather than the present average of 15 °C. The atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan also contain greenhouse gases. Human activities since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have increased the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide by over 50%, from 280 ppm in 1750 to 421 ppm in 2022. The last time the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was this high was over 3 million years ago. This increase has occurred despite the absorption of more than half of the emissions by various natural carbon sinks in the carbon cycle.

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