Scientists measure how plants change the amounts of gases in the air. Changes in amount of greenhouse gases can change the amount of greenhouse effect and global warming.
Photo by Lee Klinger, UCAR Digital Image Library
Living Things Affect Climate
There are many different ways that the plants,
animals and other life
on our planet, affect climate. Some produce greenhouses
gases that trap heat and aid global warming through the greenhouse effect, while others reduce the amount of greenhouse gases. Here are some
- Plants: The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere
by plants as they make their food by photosynthesis. During the night, plants
release some carbon dioxide into
the atmosphere. They take much more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than
they put in.
- Farm animals: The greenhouse gas methane is made as farm animals, such
as cattle and sheep, digest their food.
- Wetlands and rice patties: Microbes in natural wetlands and rice paddies
produce methane gas.
- Factories and power plants: carbon dioxide gas is releasing into the atmosphere
when fossil fuels are burned to make the power needed for most factories and
- Cars and trucks: Carbon dioxide gas is released when fossil fuels are burned
to power cars and trucks.
- Fertilizers: The greenhouse gas nitrous oxide is produced when human-produced
fertilizers breakdown in the soil.
- Wildfires: Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as wildfires
burn. However, if a forest of similar size grows again, about the same amount
of carbon that was added to the atmosphere during the fire will be removed.
So, fires affect greenhouse gases in the short term, but not on long timescales.
Did you notice that humans control many of the examples listed above? Today,
far more greenhouse gases are currently put into the atmosphere than taken out.
This contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
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, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
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