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Humans are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock. All of this adds enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Some gases in the earth's atmosphere act a bit like the glass in a greenhouse, trapping the sun's heat and stopping it from leaking back into space. Many of these gases occur naturally but human activity is increasing the concentrations of some of them in the atmosphere, in particular:
carbon dioxide (CO2)
CO2 is the greenhouse gas most commonly produced by human activities and it is responsible for 64% of man-made global warming. Its concentration in the atmosphere is currently 40% higher than it was when industrialisation began. Other greenhouse gases are emitted in smaller quantities, but they trap heat far more effectively than CO2, and in some cases are thousands of times stronger. Methane is responsible for 17% of man-made global warming, nitrous oxide for 6%.
Rising emissions are caused by:
burning coal, oil and gas which produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide
cutting down forests as trees help
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