Harmony in the Air — Understanding Dioxide (CO2) and the Environment

4 min readMar 19, 2024

Izabela Mońska


In the face of dynamic climate change that is increasing around the globe, we are increasingly faced with the need to understand the phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. It is a natural phenomenon that has maintained the climate balance on our planet for centuries, but currently, as a result of intense human activity, it exceeds nature’s ability to self-regulate.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this phenomenon, starting with its definition, discussing key greenhouse gases, and focusing in particular on the role of carbon dioxide (CO2) — one of the main causes of our current climate difficulties.

The greenhouse effect, although inherent in the functioning of the atmosphere, has become visible as a result of human activity, which makes the analysis of this phenomenon not only a scientific challenge but also a key issue for the future of our planet.

The exact definition of the Greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon by which certain gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap and retain infrared radiation from the sun, preventing it from escaping back into space. This process plays a crucial role in maintaining the planet’s temperature within a range conducive to life. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and others, absorb and re-radiate infrared radiation, warming the atmosphere.

One way to combat global warming is through greenhouse gas emission allowance markets. Carbon markets are greenhouse gas pricing schemes designed to encourage companies and countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In these markets, entities can buy and sell carbon credits, which represent the right to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. The aim is to create economic incentives to reduce emissions, supporting the transition to more sustainable and low-carbon practices.

Overview of Greenhouse Gases

Gases that cause heat to be retained in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases.

This group includes:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) : — Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels (such as coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees, and other biological materials, and from certain chemical reactions (e.g. cement production). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis.
  • Methane (CH4) — Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas in terms of climate impact. It is released into the atmosphere as a result of the extraction and transport of coal, oil, and natural gas. It also enters the atmosphere as a result of cattle breeding.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)— Nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere as a result of agricultural activities, land use, and industrial activities. Its increase in the atmosphere is also the result of, for example, sewage treatment.
  • Fluorinated gases — Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride are synthetic, potent greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere through a variety of household, commercial, and industrial uses and processes.

Short overview of Carbon Dioxide

Throughout Earth’s history, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have experienced dynamic changes. For millennia, the pre-industrial era maintained a relatively stable balance of CO2, with natural processes like volcanic activity and organic decay contributing to atmospheric levels. The onset of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century marked a pivotal moment as human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, began releasing substantial amounts of CO2. Throughout the 20th century, industrialization, deforestation, and increased fossil fuel usage further elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This upward trend persisted into the contemporary era, with concentrations exceeding 400 parts per million by the early 21st century. The consequences of this rise are evident in anthropogenic climate change, prompting global initiatives to mitigate emissions and transition to sustainable practices. The future trajectory of CO2 levels depends on humanity’s commitment to addressing these environmental challenges.

What are carbon dioxide emissions and what are their causes?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the activity that introduces carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere, mainly due to human activities. The main causes of carbon dioxide emissions include the entire spectrum of human activities:

Use of fossil fuels — the burning of fossil fuels, i.e. coal, oil, and natural gas, is the main source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Deforestation and changes in land use have a profound impact on carbon dioxide levels. Clearing forests for agriculture or urban development reduces the Earth’s ability to sequester carbon through photosynthesis, contributing to rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

Industry — Some industrial processes emit carbon dioxide directly or as a by-product. For example, manufacturing activities, especially those related to cement production and chemical processes, release significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Waste management practices — Waste disposal, especially the decomposition of organic matter in landfills and waste incineration, produces carbon dioxide emissions. The decomposition of organic waste releases CO2, and improper waste disposal increases these emissions.

Agricultural practices contribute to carbon emissions through various channels. The use of fossil fuels in agricultural machinery, changes in land use due to agricultural expansion, and certain farming methods affect the carbon balance, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

Energy production and consumption — energy from non-renewable sources such as coal and oil contributes significantly to carbon emissions. The transition to renewable energy sources is crucial to reducing emissions from energy production.





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