Farmers use greenhouses to grow plants that need protection from cold weather by trapping the heat generated from sunlight. The gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap heat in the same way to sustain life on our planet. That is why they are called greenhouse gases. The right amount prevents Earth from freezing. The wrong amount turns Earth into an oven and literally cooks our planet to extinction. Nature is designed to maintain a delicate balance by removing as much emissions as it releases. It was not designed to handle industries that generate billions of tons of emissions annually.
There are different types of greenhouse gases. Some increase global temperatures. Some are poisonous. Some are carcinogenic. Some destroy the atmosphere. But there are ten gases that concern scientists the most and they developed the Global Warming Potential or GWP score to be able to compare the global warming impact of every gas. This score measures how much energy the emissions of 1 ton of a particular gas will absorb over a given period of time compared to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide. So the higher the GWP score, the higher potential a gas has to warm the Earth compared to CO2 within that timeframe.
Carbon Dioxide CO2
Of all the greenhouse gases, CO2 is the most concerning and the primary contributor to climate change. Human activity pumps tens of billions of tons into the air every year by burning fossil fuels, solid waste, trees, and other biological materials. Nature removes carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from the atmosphere by absorbing them from the air to release oxygen. But when the agriculture industry chops down billions of trees, it releases an estimated 2.4 billion tons of C02 annually. The worst aspect of carbon dioxide is that it sticks around for generations. After a pulse of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, 40% will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years, 20% will remain for 1,000 years, and an additional 10% will remain for 10,000 years.
Humans generate more carbon dioxide than methane but it is more threatening because 1 molecule of CH4 is the equivalent of 25 molecules of CO2. Methane starts by warming the planet 80 times worse than carbon dioxide for roughly a decade. After that, the carbon in each CH4 molecule gets converted to CO2 due to atmospheric oxidization and lingers for over a century. The livestock industry and its byproducts are the chief producers of methane. Levels of CO2 and CH4 are now the highest they have been in nearly half a million years.
Nitrous Oxide N20
Nitrous oxide is produced by industrial manufacturing, wastewater management, the combustion of fossil fuels, and the breakdown of agricultural fertilizer. N20 is 298 times more devastating than CO2 and lingers in the atmosphere for 114 years.
Dichlorodifluoromethane CCl2F2 and Chlorodifluoromethane CHClF2
Used as a refrigerant, these two gases are so dangerous that the United States and Europe banned them from being manufactured due to their destructive ability to deplete Earth’s ozone layer and allow the sun’s ultraviolet rays to barge through the atmosphere. Dichlorodifluoromethane lasts for 102 years and chlorodifluoromethane only lasts up to 17 years but those exposed to it can experience significant toxic effects.
Another refrigerant, tetrafluoroethane does not deplete the ozone but lingers for 50,000 years. However, it reflects heat efficiently. Fortunately, very little is being emitted today by human activity. However, as dichlorodifluoromethane and chlorodifluoromethane are no longer used as refrigerants, more and more CF4 is released into the air annually, which will lead to significant global warming.
Hexafluoroethane is used in the semiconductor industry. It lingers for 10,000 years and has a whopping GWP score of 9,200. Prior to industrialization, this gas did not exist in the atmosphere. Thankfully, there is little demand for it today but like tetrafluoromethane, the demand for C2F6 is increasing and becoming a threat.
Sulfur Hexafluoride SF6
Sulfur hexafluoride is used as an electrical insulator. It has an atmospheric lifespan of 3,200 years and is 23,900 times stronger than carbon dioxide. SF6 is considered one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases known. It is banned as a tracer gas and is limited to high voltage applications but is unfortunately gaining popularity.
Nitrogen Trifluoride NF3
NF3 is produced by industrial gas and chemical companies. It is another greenhouse gas that destroys the ozone layer and stays in the atmosphere for up to 740 years.
Ozone presents itself in two forms, stratospheric and tropospheric. Stratospheric ozone occurs naturally to block solar energy and protect Earth’s inhabitants from harsh radiation. Tropospheric ozone, on the other hand, is produced through industrial plants, chemical solvents, and by burning fossil fuels. It reflects the heat or thermal energy from the Earth’s surface back towards the Earth and prevents it from being released into space. When O3 mixes with carbon monoxide, the combination results in smog.
Water Vapor H2O
Water itself is not endangering our planet but as our planet grows warmer, the ice melts and water evaporates. This water vapor lingers within Earth’s lower atmosphere, absorbing infrared radiation and pushing it back down to the surface. So it is both a symptom and a massive catalyst of global warming.
There are thousands of other types of greenhouse gases but most reside in the atmosphere in small quantities and currently pose no threat. However, the gases above have the potential to end life as we know it within decades. That is why our mission is to dramatically decrease greenhouse emissions and restore Earth's natural balance by developing groundbreaking probiotics that transform the way food is manufactured and consumed around the world.