Trace Gases That Contribute to Climate Change

Earth’s climate is changing faster than ever. While natural factors have some part in it, research points to human activities as the primary cause.

For one, burning fossil fuels releases trace gases into the air, which trap heat within the atmosphere. That leads to various ecological issues, such as extreme weather and severe droughts that make landscapes more vulnerable to wildfires.

Atmospheric pollution caused by trace gases is significant as this has severe effects on human health and the environment. Learning about the spatial distribution of pollutants is crucial to understanding the complex chemical processes that occur in the air.

Using tools such as the quantum cascade laser (QCL)analyzer, experts can identify atmospheric components and their trace concentrations. Three of the most important gases that humans directly release into the air are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Carbon Dioxide

The primary greenhouse gas that contributes to rapid climate change, CO2 is inherently absorbed and released as part of the carbon cycle. It’s emitted through natural activities, such as respiration, volcanic eruptions, and ocean-atmosphere exchange.

Human-made processes, such as combustion from vehicles and power plants, produce high levels of CO2. With the increasing use of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emissions soar as well. Every year, humans release over 30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The key to minimizing carbon dioxide emissions is to lower fossil fuel consumption. Eco-friendly solutions such as improving building insulation, driving fuel-efficient vehicles, and using green electrical appliances help contribute to reducing energy usage and CO2 emissions.


Methane is also produced through natural causes as well as human processes, with the oil and gas industry being the largest source of industrial emissions. As CH4 leaks into the air, it absorbs the sun’s heat and warms the atmosphere.

Due to human activities, the Earth’s atmosphere contains more methane now than at any time in the past 800,000 years. Its concentrations have soared quickly during most of the 20th century. But, in recent decades, the rate has slowed down considerably as emissions from oil and gas operations have been regulated.

Nitrous Oxide

As with the two other gases, nitrous oxide is released through natural and human activities. Emissions are mainly from agricultural and biological processes, although they also happen due to fossil fuel combustion.

Concentrations of nitrous oxide have risen by about 20% since the industrial revolution. Its rapid increase happened toward the end of the 20th century. One of the proposed ways to minimize its effect is for the agricultural industry to use less nitrogen fertilizer.

To monitor and evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from both managed and natural ecosystems, experts use innovative measuring tools, such as the quantum cascade laser analyzer. The data they provide help generate solutions to mitigate climate change.