The Greenhouse Effect

The atmosphere, a thin layer of gases surrounding the earth, allows sunlight radiation to pass through it.

The earth's surfaces absorb 70 per cent of this energy. The remaining 30 per cent gets reflected back into space.  Greenhouse gases trap this heat energy in the atmosphere and keep the earth warm. 

The balance of the incoming and outgoing energy allows the earth to be habitable. Increased levels of greenhouse gases caused by human activities offset the natural balance of the earth's atmosphere and result in a changing climate.

Causes of climate change

Map

GHG emissions (tonnes per capita) - Government of New Brunswick, 2016

The long-term shifts in weather conditions cause alterations in temperature, precipitation, winds and other indicators. 

The balance between incoming and outgoing energy regulates the long-term state and average temperature of the earth's climate. 

Any factor that causes a change in incoming or outdoing energy causes a shift in the earth's energy balance. As the main cause of climate change, human activity contributes to this deviation through the burning of fossil fuels and the conversion of land for forestry and agriculture. 

For example, burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide, the main gas associated with human-induced climate change. 

According to the National Inventory Report, electricity makes up the majority of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by using, for example, non-renewable resources in the generation process.

Generating electricity produces carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. This contributes to smog, acid rain and the formation of fine particulate matter. 

By burning fossil fuels, like gasoline and diesel to power vehicles, the transportation sector represents the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country. 

These emissions can be removed by:

  • investing in electric and hybrid vehicles
  • carpooling
  • taking the bus
  • active transportation

The oil and gas sector, the third largest emitter, contributes to climate change through refining and processing non-renewable energy sources. The majority of these emissions come from the combustion of the energy source which emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.