Air Pollution Essay: Greenhouse Gases And Climate Change

1478 words - 6 pages

Air pollution and greenhouse gases are the reason for the planet as it is today; the reason why we see campaigns flooding the media informing us to ‘switch off’, ‘save the planet’ and ‘turn down the heat’ and the reason why the government is trying to develop a successful scheme, such as the carbon tax scheme, to reduce air pollution caused by major industries. Air pollution and greenhouse gases are the two immediate causes of global warming and climate change. Air pollution occurs when chemicals or particulate matter enter the atmosphere. They can cause damage to living organisms on the planet, as well as destruction to the natural and synthetic environment (Energy Environment.net 2008). Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation emitted from the earth. They trap infrared radiation in the form of heat, and hence contribute to global warming. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases are a direct result of air pollution. They are the physical gases emitted that cause air pollution. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases also have an influence on the earth’s atmosphere, though it is not as conspicuous as anthropogenic causes. Together, air pollution and greenhouse gases are intensifying climate change and global warming on a world-wide basis.

Until 10 years ago, air pollution was thought to be just an urban or local problem until it was discovered that the pollutants could move across continents and oceans. Air pollution is the fundamental factor that causes greenhouse gases, hence climate change and global warming. Air pollutants are the waste products generated from industrial and other processes. They usually come in gases, though aerosols (particles suspended in air, emitted as or formed by transformations of SO2, NOx and ammonia into sulphates, nitrates and ammonium) are common as well, and just as significant. Aerosols absorb and reflect sunlight, which increases the atmospheric temperature, enhancing greenhouse warming. There are two main classifications of air pollutants; primary, those emitted directly into the atmosphere, and secondary pollutants, those that form in the air when primary pollutants interact and react. Air pollution is most commonly caused by anthropogenic emission, the most predominant being the burning of fossil fuels. Other major causes of air pollution include chemical processing, agriculture, airborne particles and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) (Irina Ignatova 2008). Air pollution does occur naturally as well, from volcanic eruptions, water vapour, animal resuscitation and lightening fires. Air composition changes regularly, depending on the place, season and weather, as well as for many other reasons (NSW Gvt. 2008).

The most prevalent air pollutants, as established by the Australian Government, are; carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particles and sulfur dioxide (2. Aust. Gvt. 2009.). Carbon monoxide occurs in the atmosphere naturally at low levels, and is mainly...

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