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Carbon Dioxide and Methane – The Greenhouse Gases

Carbon Dioxide and Methane – The Greenhouse Gases

Water Vapour 

  • Water vapour is the biggest contributor to greenhouse effect.
  • Human activities are not directly responsible for emitting water vapour in quantities sufficient to change its concentration in the atmosphere.
  • However, increase in concentration of other greenhouse gases increases the earth’s temperature which leads to high rate of evaporation.
  • The concentration of water vapour is 1-4% in the atmosphere. The concentration is higher at equator than at the poles.
  • Unlike other greenhouse gases, water vapours persist in the atmosphere for a short time period.
  • Water vapours emerge due to evaporation and fall back on the surface of the earth due to precipitation.

Carbon Dioxide

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas, because it is emitted in large quantity. Carbon dioxide is a part of natural circulation of atmospheric gases.
  • However, human activities increase the concentration of CO2 in the environment. These activities include burning of fossil fuels.
  • Apart from the release of CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels, CO2 is also generated by various chemical processes.
  • Human activities also decrease the capacity of natural sinks of CO2 such as forests, polar ice caps, oceans, etc.


  • Methane (CH4) has higher global warming potential (GWP) than CO2. Same quantity of CH4 traps more sun rays than that of CO2.
  • However, it is released in small quantity as compared to CO2.                  Carbon Dioxide and Methane – The Greenhouse Gases
  • Various sources from which methane is released are as follows:
  • Wetlands (e.g. rice fields) are the largest source of methane. Wetlands are more in the tropical region than in the other regions of the world.
  • Seventy percent of wetlands in India are rice fields. Methane is released in the wetlands as a result of decomposition of organic matter due to lack of oxygen.
  • Livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, etc., produce methane during digestion. Decomposition of manure also leads to the discharge of methane.
  • Arctic methane release is the release of methane from seas and soils in permafrost regions of the Arctic.
  • As it is a long-term natural process, it is increased due to global warming. This results in a positive feedback effect, as methane is itself a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • Methane is also a component of natural gas. Production and consumption of natural gas causes discharge of methane.
  • Decomposition of biodegradable waste also generates methane.
  • Treatment of wastewater generates methane.                  Carbon Dioxide and Methane – The Greenhouse Gases


Environment & Biodiversity

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