The greenhouse effect
CO2 and several other gases in the Earth’s atmosphere help trap heat, as in a greenhouse – hence the term greenhouse gases.
The build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes more heat to be retained, which leads to global warming and other climate change impacts. CO2 is of particular concern because it is the most abundant man-made greenhouse gas.
Human activity and climate change
Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, the world’s population has grown tremendously, as has the use of coal, oil, and natural gas to power modern societies.
As more fossil fuels are burned, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere rises, and more heat is trapped through the greenhouse effect. Although many factors have an impact on the climate, most scientists agree that the current rise in average global temperatures is due to our extensive use of fossil fuels.
EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified greenhouse gases as air pollutants. This finding allows EPA to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases to protect human health and welfare, which may be adversely affected by global warming.