Catastrophic Climate Could Be Forestalled by Cutting Overlooked Gases [Slide Show]

Carbon dioxide gets all the attention, but there are a host of compounds responsible for global warming
1 of 6


This colorless, odorless molecule is the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are now at roughly 390 parts-per-million—up from roughly 280 ppm a few short centuries ago.....[ More ]


Although it's not technically a gas—more of an aerosol—soot, otherwise known as black carbon, can help warm the atmosphere during its residency of a few short weeks. And when it falls out of the atmosphere onto ice or snow, it helps melt it faster —a main reason such soot is helping speed warming in the Arctic.....[ More ]


This colorless, odorless gas—SF6—is an insulator used in the circuit breakers of power equipment—and the most potent greenhouse gas known to science. Since the 1990s, its concentration in the atmosphere has doubled thanks to leaks from an ever-more sprawling global electric grid .....[ More ]


To help keep cool, a series of chemical refrigerants have been crafted in recent decades. Early refrigerants proved lethal to the planet's protective stratospheric ozone layer, as evidenced by the ozone hole pictured here.....[ More ]


Perhaps better known as laughing gas, N2O levels in the atmosphere have risen by 20 percent since 1750, reaching a concentration of 323 parts-per-billion in 2010, according to the World Meteorological Organization.....[ More ]


More commonly known as natural gas, CH4 is also a fossil fuel. It is the second most common greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, at 1.8 parts-per-million in the atmosphere. Concentrations have risen by 158 percent since 1750, according to the World Meteorological Organization.....[ More ]

risk free title graphic

YES! Send me a free issue of Scientific American with no obligation to continue the subscription. If I like it, I will be billed for the one-year subscription.

cover image Subscribe Now
Share this Article:

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article