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What Are Green House Gases & Where Do They Come From?

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 10/20/2009

Yes, you've heard about Global Warming and Green House Effect, but what are greenhouse gases, how are they formed and where do they come from?

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    How Greenhouse Gases Cause Greenhouse Effect

    Greenhouse Gases include both natural gases and gases that result from human activity that are released in to the atmosphere. The sunlight passes through the atmosphere to the Earth and heats up the ground. Greenhouse effect is caused when some of this heat from the sun then bounces back and is absorbed and trapped in the atmosphere by those greenhouse gases. This creates a blanket of heat that is rapidly warming the Earth to a point where it may be dangerous for life. If these gases are balanced, the amount of heat that is being absorbed by the Earth and the amount of energy that is reflected back into space should be roughly the safe and therefore allow the Earth’s temperature to stay about the same.

    What Are Greenhouse Gases?

    Some green house gases are naturally occurring, while others are manmade as a result of the chemicals we use in manufacturing, burning fossile fuels, and other aspects of our lives. The main greenhouse gases include water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. While a balanced amount of greenhouse gases are necessary for the greenhouse effect that we need to keep sustainable life on Earth, they must be controlled or we face tremendous trouble.

    Where Do Greenhouse Gases Come From?

    Most of the emission of greenhouse gases comes from the burning of fossil fuels including coal and petroleum which are used to create energy for much of the world today. Considering the heating, cooling, and other power needs we have to live a “comfortable" life today, humankind is primarily responsible for the influx of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contributes to an accelerated green house effect, thus driving the temperature of the earth upward, and creating issues with weather, along with the lives of plant and animal species. The energy related explosion of carbon dioxide is the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect, with an astonishing 82% of the total man-made gas emissions during 2006, as according to the Energy Information Administration and a brochure released in May 2008.