Other Global Warming Gases in CO2's Shadow

An article in today's issue of the journal Science proposes that the focus on carbon dioxide as "the" greenhouse gas responsible for global warming needs to be widened to include other bad gases contributing to the problem -- which we heard recently could see entire climate zones wiped out in under 100 years.

A complex mix of greenhouse gases emitted into Earth's atmosphere contribute to the greenhouse effect; a blanketing that lets sunlight in and traps the heat. According to Live Science, Co-author Keith Shine of England's Reading University says all gases need to be studied to gain a full understanding of climate change -- I just can't believe someone needed to point this out.

CO2 does account for most warming because of its sheer volume, but a combination of other gases makes up approximately 40 percent. Since other gases can more efficiently absorb and re-emit radiation, they can individually have a bigger share in the process. Some gases are up to 10,000 times better at absorbing and re-emitting radiation than CO2.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

These greenhouse gases were banned from common uses in air conditioners and refrigerators after being found to devour atmospheric ozone. Levels are no longer rising but it'll be decades before the amounts we once contributed will be gone.

The methane puzzle

Making up most of the 40 percent of other gases, methane is posing a number of unanswered questions for scientists. It's known to come from burning fossil fuels, animal waste, landfills and melting permafrost, but exactly how many natural sources there are and how much methane is naturally found in the atmosphere is being debated.

Not to mention scientists don't know what methane does once emitted because it's so short lived and reactive with other molecules. Levels were rising steadily but have leveled off in the last decade. It remains to be seen whether the reason is less emissions or molecule destruction due to reactivity, so does whether the leveling off is permanent or temporary.

Hopefully the scientists will get on that one soon, so we can find out just how damaging cow farts really are.

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