The concentration of greenhouse gases in the troposphere has become a common and well-known subject for those who work in the areas of sustainability and agriculture.
There is much debate over the potential harm these gases may have on the atmosphere and to what extent each one of them impacts global warming. To gain a clear understanding of this issue, the IPCC has developed a methodology for the comparison of greenhouse gases (GHG) known as GWP (Global Warming Potential).
There are more than 20 greenhouse gases (GHGs). Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) are most widely known and hold the highest global warming potential.
The IPCC has developed the GWP unit (Global Warming Potential) to better understand the impact of these gases in relation to global warming.
Greenhouse gases that interact with infrared radiation receives a "GWP" (Global Warming Potential) and as CO2is the most highly concentrated gas in the troposphere, it received a "GWP" equal to 1.
All other gases are compared relative to CO2, according to the intensity of the interaction of these gases with "infrared radiation" and the length of time they remain in the troposphere "mean residence time". Using CO2as a reference of potential of "1", all other gases were ranked in equivalence of warming potential, resulting in the following "approximate values", these values may be adjusted according to each updated report of the IPCC working group.
Therefore, to ensure that we can have an overall view and do not need to look at each GHG emitted separately, the CO2Equivalent unit was created, given that CO2is the reference unit. Below we present the equivalent units for each gas and, as you may observe, Nitrous Oxide presents the highest GWP - Global Warming Potential.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) GWP reference = 1
Methane (CH4) GWP = 27
Nitrous oxide (N2O) GWP = 273
Learn more about Global Warming Potential (GWP), see the IPCC report "AR4 Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, starting on page 31:
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